Almost half-way there—whether halfway through the calendar year or your fiscal year. And even if your fundraising is going great guns, more would not be a bad thing. If you don’t already do a mid-year appeal, you might want to consider it. And if you do, you might want to think about how to make it more successful.
When I started in the field, appeals consisted of a very long letter, sometimes with a shorter “lift” letter (on a smaller-sized sheet of paper) and a reply device. Occasionally—if the organization was very sophisticated—there would be a series of three letters over a number of weeks.
Over the years, letters got shorter, lift letters disappeared and fewer organizations thought beyond one mailing. This wasn’t because direct mail became more successful; rather it had to do with the cost.
What didn’t change was the effectiveness. For “warm” mailings—that is, appeals sent to people who knew your organization—the response rate remains about 4%. The “cooler” your list, the less your response rate.
And yet, there are so many reasons to do appeals:
- It’s a way to reach a very large audience
- To tell that audience about your impact and successes
- To remind those who have given why their support counts
- To keep in touch with those who aren’t currently donors
Today, of course, you have access to many different platforms, and the wise fundraiser avails herself of all of them. Consider a letter, and postcards. E-blasts and videos. Social media messaging. Phone calls and in person meetings. Small groups of like-minded people or those who are geographically compatible. So many ways to reach your audiences. And the wisest fundraiser recognizes the value of segmentation. In other words, not everyone gets the same message in the same way.
Speaking of messages, the mid-year appeal is a terrific time to focus on a core program or project. At the end of the year, we tend to ask for support so we can do what we do. At mid-year, think about being more specific.
What are the ways you accomplish your goals? What are the regular programs you offer? What are the activities you do?
If, for example, you provide your clients with a series of three workshops, talk about those workshops—how they help your clients and the difference they make—and ask for support of those workshops.
Note that these are the things you do all the time. A broad net can be great, but there are those people who want to know—exactly—what their money goes for. Major donors frequently support something specific. But a major gift is one that has the power to be transformative. It must be large enough to make an impact on a new program or a one-off project. When someone makes a gift of $50,000 or more it’s easy to show that donor what their money has bought.
While it is impractical (not to mention impossible) to tell a donor exactly how you spent his $250, it is relatively easy to say that gifts given to this appeal will support this part of what we do. And yes, this does mean that the money you’ve already budgeted for this program can be freed up to support some other things that you do.
As you ask for specific support, remember to show why this matters. How does this project help your clients or your cause? How does it make a difference?
Above all, remember it is not about you. It is about who or what you serve and mostly it is about those who contribute to allow your work to change the world.