I had the pleasure recently of teaming up with my fundraising bestie and copywriting guru Julie Cooper to host an “End of Year Appeal Writing Made Easy” workshop.
We had close to 2,000 fundraising friends sign up, and we kicked things off by surveying the audience about their year-end fundraising goals (which we defined to include Giving Tuesday). The response was overwhelming and we received a ton of really great questions.
As we wrapped up the webinar we realized there’s an entire universe of fundraisers that could benefit if we shared the data and questions we received, so we’ve pulled it all together for you to share with your team. Included in this article you’ll find:
- The results of our flash polls we conducted on year-end fundraising
- Audience questions from our fundraising friends who attended the webinar
Let’s dive into the poll data.
Year-end Appeal Creative (inclusive of email and direct mail):
- 96% were writing their own appeals and not using a copywriter
- 78% had not started writing as of late August
- 55% were planning to spend less than $2,500 on end-of-year fundraising expenses like design, printing, postage etc.
- 21% were planning to spend upwards of $5,000.
- 17% had a goal to raise $15,000 – 25,000 at year-end.
- 22% had a goal to raise $25,001 – $50,000 at year-end.
- 18% had a goal to raise $50,001 – 100,000 at year-end.
- 21% had a goal to raise $100,001 – 1 million at year-end.
Quantity of appeals:
- 9% were only sending one appeal.
- 34% were only sending out 2-3 appeals (direct mail and email).
- 27% were only sending out 4-5 appeals.
- 16% were sending 6-8 appeals.
- 7% were sending 9 -11 appeals.
- 7% were sending out more than 12 appeals.
Are you thinking what I’m thinking? I was floored. My heart was racing for everyone there. I worried:
- “Could they use help writing their appeal? A whopping 96% of these people are doing it themselves and only a handful of them may have any training as a fundraising copywriter.”
- “Did they base their goals on how they did last year or just what they want to raise? Is anyone being measured on their goals? These may be the most optimistic fundraisers I’ve ever met. All of these people are expecting at least a 3X return on their investment and 17% expect to make 100 times what they invest! Have they done the math?”
- “How is anyone going to reach these big goals with so few sends? Do they realize the average email open rate is 30%, meaning 70% of people won’t read your email appeal, and direct mail response rates are even lower?”
I hope these numbers inspire you to send more appeals, set realistic goals, get help from a professional fundraising copywriter, and get training so you can make your end-of-year fundraising dreams come true (no matter how dreamy they are!).
Your burning end-of-year fundraising questions answered!
Amongst our friends joining us for the appeal writing workshop, the most popular questions were how to craft a tangible ask but keep the money unrestricted, and if the reply envelope should have a stamp on it. Let’s dive into the questions.
“How do we ask for specific things while transparently keeping the money in an undesignated fund (rather than making the gift specifically for specific line item/fund)?”
Here are 3 ways to be specific while raising unrestricted funds from copywriter Jeff Brooks:
- Somewhere in your appeal add the phrase: “Your gift will not only help this project, but it will help in many other ways.” You can say this once or twice. Don’t feel obligated to overemphasize it – donors understand that even though you’re talking about one thing (i.e. a surgery) you need to raise unrestricted funds to support all of your work.
- Somewhere in your reply device that invites the donor to select their gift amount, add the phrase to your call to action “and other places,” “and other projects,” or “and other work.” For example, “Please use my gift now to help endangered polar bears in Antarctica and other imperiled wildlife.”
- Create a policy around the use of funds, i.e. “In the case that funds exceed the project described we will use the money where it is needed most” and add that policy as a footnote in your reply device.
“Should we put a stamp on the (remit) envelope or not?”
According to direct mail fundraising experts like Mal Warwick and Jeff Brooks, the rate and type of postage you use to send direct mail has little impact on response. This is true for both the outer envelope as well as the return envelope with one exception: by putting first-class stamps on the return envelope, you will increase responses to your direct mail. Even better still, put several stamps of different denominations, adding up to first-class postage.
This is an extra expense that could add 49 cents to the cost of your direct mail so consider using this for upper-end donors where the cost will be outweighed by the improvement in response. For example, using it with all frequent and active $100 and up donors.
“I’ve heard we should first ask people to give, if not give, advocate for org, and lastly to volunteer for org. Is this a good progression or will it just confuse them?”
Any appeal you write should have only ONE call to action (asking for the gift) which should be asked for at least three times. Asking people to do three different things will overwhelm them and reduce the odds they respond.
“Are milestone anniversaries (i.e. 20th year) a compelling reason to do a campaign?”
Anniversaries are like birthdays; they mean the most to the person celebrating it and less to everyone else. A matching gift could create more excitement and urgency.
“How far in advance should you start your year-end giving asks?”
Everyone’s schedule is different based on their other campaigns, emergency needs, and programs but many organizations kick off end of year fundraising with Giving Tuesday.
“What do you think of not having a reply slip and just having a QR code that goes directly to the donation page and the website link on the appeal?”
The reply slip is a critical part of your appeal it. Include it. If you want to test if a QR code has any lift do an A/B test.
“What are creative ways of showing the problem for an arts organization? A lot of donors that don’t know our org think it’s not really a need.”
Great question! According to Jeff Brooks, in one study what motivated 93% of art donors was supporting the art form. Only 15% gave for “outreach.” Yet 83% of the time art organizations talked about outreach in their appeal and only talked about the mainstage 17% of the time.
“What about using ‘we’ language, as in ‘together, we’re saving lives’?”
No! That’s organization-centric. Be donor-centric. The appeal is not about how great you are, it is about how great the donor is. Not sure if your appeal is you-centric enough? Check out the free Bloomerang Comms Audit tool!
“What about an end of year video and ask to help with the EOY Fundraising campaign?”
A highly engaging, emotional, short and compelling video could do well for you. The risk with a video that isn’t highly emotionally compelling and falls flat is that viewers can feel like they already “gave” you something by spending their time watching it and may not take further action.
Want some more help with end of year? We have you covered these additional resources:
- Let a copywriting Tinkerbell makeover your appeal.
- Want help that is 100% free? Catch Rachel’s appeal checklist, Julie’s cheat sheet, and the “End of Year Appeal Writing Made Easy” replay and slides.
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This article originally appeared in Bloomerang. See the original article here.