24 May Fall Appeal – Planning Around the Election
by David Allen, Development for Conservation
Are you ready for the election season? Me neither.
Aside from the every-four-years political craziness, the presidential election in 2016 will present some challenges for your fall appeal planning as well.
The bottom line is that few people will be paying attention to renewal or seasonal appeal letters around the election. There will be too much noise in the mailbox, and too much media distraction in general to make for effective fundraising.
Election Day in 2016 will be November 8, 2016. In my opinion, the election will affect direct mail results the weeks of October 24, October 31, and November 7. The weeks of October 17 and November 14 won’t be stellar weeks either.
So make sure you are planning around the election. If you are planning two appeal letters (an initial letter and a single follow-up), plan the first to go out no later than Tuesday, October 11 and the follow-up letter to go out around November 29.
If you are planning a sequence of three letters, I’d look at mailing as early as the first week in October with follow-up letters the weeks of November 14 and December 12.
Note that you can segment your audience and write these letters NOW to save time and make it more likely that you will be ready before the election mail hits. It’s going to be a busy year.
Photo credit: Trillium courtesy of C.M. Dargitz.
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Robin Cabral (Development Consulting Solutions) recently blogged about the nature of fear. In her blog, she quoted Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements, and specifically a whole chapter he devotes to “Making Assumptions.” Here is a quote she pulled from the book:
“The biggest assumption (in my opinion) is that we assume everyone sees the world and each circumstance the way WE do. We assume they think, feel, and even judge the way we do. This assumption sparks our internal fear of being ourselves around others. We think they will judge, victimize or blame us; just as we do to ourselves. So before someone has the opportunity to accept or reject us, we have already rejected ourselves. The way to keep from making assumptions is to ask questions.”
That really resonated for me. I’ve often noticed that we don’t have the same inhibitions asking people to donate land that we do asking people to donate money. For the rest of 2016, let’s not say no for people by not asking them to help. Some will say no anyway. Others may very well surprise us.
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Here’s what I’m thinking about for May. What are YOU thinking about?
Second Spring Appeal Letters: I want my donors to give to the organization twice each year, once to renew their membership, and once in response to an “appeal letter.” Because most donors renew their membership in the fall months, and because I don’t want them to receive the two requests right on top of one another, the Spring Appeal is important. The first letter should have gone out in April, but there’s still time to get a second, “reminder” letter out as long as it is mailed before Memorial Day.
Taking Stock After April: “Assume that you are not there a year from now – not anywhere around, in fact. Write your replacement a letter explaining where you are after four months this year. Talk about what your priorities were and how they may have changed over time. Be analytical and reflective, but most of all, be candid.”
If you followed my advice last year, you will have a file somewhere in your computer containing your reflections on the first four months of last year. Use it as a baseline to make the same evaluation this year. If you did not, do it now for next year!
Donor Events: In May, I’m already thinking about my donor events in the Fall. WHY? – because it takes that long to do it well.
Securing Prospecting Mail Lists: It’s not too early to think about fall mailings to recruit new members. Getting the lists together is a big part of that. Certainly recreate my “house list” of lapsed and former members and donors, program and field trip participants, and volunteers. But also begin trading or buying other lists. I don’t know of any land trust organization with more than 1,500-2,000 members that does not depend on a significant direct mail program and budget. Those that have curbed it to save money (or in consideration of using less paper; or in favor of email, social media, or crowd funding) have lost.