Just thinking about a spring appeal can help warm up a winter day. Planning it well at the same time can boost your nonprofit’s bottom line for the entire year!
Spring appeals are entirely different than end-of-year or annual appeals, and you need to act accordingly as you plan, write, and implement. Your organization is most likely busy with programs at the moment it is critical to send the letters out. And your donors or prospects might have just given to you at the end of the year. Also, they are in a different mindset at this time of year and hence need to be approached differently. Here are 8 tips to help you plan and execute a successful spring appeal.
1. Keep the Appeal Plan Simple
Nonprofits are at their busiest in the spring, but you can still find time to fundraise if you keep it simple. Plan to just send a letter and a return envelope, stressing online giving.
Keep the list small as well. Spring appeals are great to follow up with donors that did not give at end of year. They provide an opportunity for patrons that either could not give at that time or forgot to give. They are also fantastic ways to reach out to new audiences altogether. New donors to your spring appeal can become your best annual appeal/year-end donors.
2. Ask for Specific Funding within Your Spring Appeal
Focus on a specific, attainable organizational need. Even better, focus on an attainable need that has urgency. A car to deliver food to hungry students over the summer. A library and furniture for a summer reading camp. Sports equipment for a fall afterschool program for special needs students from disadvantaged households. By doing so, you are:
- Giving donors a chance to give an extra gift if they so choose. Especially if you generally do not ask for specific campaigns!
- Showing measurable impact. People are more likely to respond to you if they can link to their impact.
3. Use Reinforcing Language in Your Spring Appeal
Especially if you are focusing on reaching out to lapsed donors, only focus on the positive and reinforce how amazing the donor is. Scientific studies show that, when people perceive of themselves as do-gooders, they are more likely to do more good. So, instead of focusing on what a new gift will accomplish, focus on the impact of their last gift. Gently remind them that it has been a while (most likely they think they gave a month ago) but they are wonderful. For instance:
- Your gift from (2 years ago) empowered us to install solar panels for 2,000 homes and grow our network of volunteers to 38. Those 5,500 Haitians that were in the dark thank you, as do we!
- We are so thrilled to report that we have 37 new schools participating in our digital library, from 3 continents. Thank you for supporting our 2016 fundraising drive to make that happen!
- Since you generously gave $100 (three years ago), we have planted 25,000 trees in sub-Saharan Africa. That erases your whole family’s carbon footprint. Thank you for being an amazing force to curb climate change and help our poorest global villages!
(More about applying positive persistence.)
4. Include Ways for the Donor to Get Involved in the Appeal
Do not just ask for money. Give simple and engaging ways for the donor to participate with the appeal as well. For instance, ask them to take a quick survey and include it in their response envelope. This makes them feel like they are an active part of your organization! It can be helpful information for you or pure fun. If you are an animal rights organization, maybe ask what a favorite pet is. Or you could ask donors to pick a name for an office cat or for a new program. Claim that you will post the results on your website or Facebook by a certain date to encourage urgency.
Click here for more help and sample fundraising letters.
5. Make the Envelope for the Appeal Interesting
People will not open what looks like junk mail. At a minimum, you need to hand write your addresses onto your letters. Better yet, include a teaser or an interesting, uncompleted phrase on the envelope to peak interest. You can finish off the first sentence in your letter or answer the riddle in your PS note.
- Are you aware… (Your gift in 2015 helped us build 3 new schools).
- How many children in our town do not have dinner available at home? (25% – that means one of your neighbors could probably be hungry right now).
- What beats 60 times per minute? (The heart of a normal child that received a heart transplant in India last year because of gifts like yours).
6. Make the Spring Appeal as Personal as Possible
The more you can relate to the donor and make it about them, the more successful you will be. If you keep your appeal small and targeted, you can do this easily by writing personal notes on each letter. If your appeal is larger, use technology to your advantage.
- Segment your donors by age, program preference, and any other unique data you have collected. Tweak your letter as much as you can for each category.
- Always use your donors’ preferred names in your letter – in the address, in the salutation, and in the letter body itself. “Dear friend” and letters that lack addresses are automatically impersonal, turning donors off.
- Use “you” and “yours” in the letter as often as you can fit them.
7. Invite Your Donors in Your Appeal to an Event
Even if it just mentioning upcoming events in a PS note, you should invite your donors or prospects to an upcoming community program or specific donor engagement event. In the spring, people are the most likely to get outside and get engaged in your work! Take advantage. It will at a minimum make them feel appreciated and special (and hence more likely to give). If you are too pressed for time, host an online event – even if it is just a Facebook Q and A, it can help provide a forum for engagement.
8. Follow up on Your Appeal Letters
If you receive a gift, thank your donor within 48 hours in the most personal way you can – email, text, phone, and/or a formal letter. If a few weeks go by, and you have not heard from everyone, you can follow-up to encourage giving in the following ways:
- Call your donor or prospect and ask them if they received your letter. Use it as a means to start a conversation. Plan a calling team beforehand and break up the work between staff and volunteers.
- Send an email – you can have this ready to go a few weeks in advance. Give any updates to the campaign status to press urgency for their participation.
Spring is an often-overlooked time to launch a special fundraising appeal. But if you keep it simple, targeted, and organized, you can help jumpstart your year well in advance and possibly attract some lapsed or new donors in the process.