03 Jun Plan the Board HandWriting Event for August
June. School’s letting out. Graduations, summer parties, fishing season. Vacations are getting started. People are distracted and distractible. Maybe not the best month to launch fundraising initiatives.
So what can you do?
Fundraiser’s Almanac – June
- Plan the Board HandWriting Event for August
- Annual Report
- Good News
- Filing/Data Entry
- Lapsed Member Letters
Here are three ideas, not only for June but for July and August also: Clean things up, prepare stuff for the fall, and show your land to your donors.
I’ll get to the other two in due course, but let’s start with preparing stuff – in this case handwritten solicitations for $1,000 memberships in the fall.
Many land trust organizations have invested significant branding attention in donor clubs, defined as groups of members who give at a significantly higher level – $1,000 for example. I’ve written about this before (See On Donor Clubs). Donor clubs with a $1,000 or greater threshold represent the most significant source of unrestricted fundraising growth available to most land trusts.
When you first create a donor club, you can identify all the donors who already give at that level and “induct” them into the club. You can describe the donor club to them and ask that they “renew” their membership at that level to help start the club.
Others will need to be recruited. Consider donors who give $1,000 or more to restricted projects first, and those who give $250 or more for their membership after that. This group is a perfect group to solicit using a letter that is entirely written longhand.
Writing letters to donors the old-fashioned way – using pen and paper – takes longer and you’ll get plenty of grumbling about it from Board Directors, but few techniques are more effective.
Writing letters by hand has several advantages over typed letters. First they are always perceived as more personal. If someone took the time to write me a letter by hand, I am very likely to read it. Second, it is nearly impossible to write two letters exactly the same and that degree of personalization is noticeable.
Third and perhaps more importantly, people read handwritten letters linearly – from start to finish. Type-written letters are not read linearly, but rather skimmed while flitting quickly from page to page and back again. People read the first few words or sentences and then skip to the PS note. They read underlined or highlighted text before large black and white text blocks. They also read captions before text blocks, and they read stories before narratives. So writing a letter by hand allows the writer to construct a linear “case” for supporting the themes of the letter – joining the donor club in this case.
The steps are as follows:
- Assemble the list
- Draft a sample letter (not too long!) that writers can start with if their own words don’t come quickly
- Organize stationery, pens, music, and even adult beverages as appropriate for the event
- Ask each letter-writer to draft up to six letters; they can choose those six people from the master list based on people that they know or that they do not know, either way
- Ask each writer to date the letters based on the day you wish to have them mailed
- Have the same writer address the envelope and put their own name under the return address block
- Copy each handwritten letter for the files
- Assemble the letters and envelopes, along with any additional inserts such as a list of current members and/or a club brochure
- Wait until the designated day and mail all the letters
OK, so here’s where June comes in. If you want to mail these letters in late September or early October – which would be ideal – you need to have the letters written in August. And that means now – in June – is a great time to start planning it.
Gather or reprint sufficient stationery to handle the project. Set a date (Doodle Poll?) in August to gather your Board Directors together for the effort. Prepare a list of most promising prospects, and assign a specific ask amount for each one. Most will be $1,000, but several might be more. And draft the sample letter.
By the way, you’ll get pushback the first time you try this. The most common complaint is that “no one could possibly read my handwriting.” My response is to encourage everyone to take their time with the writing, and work to make it legible. But even if it’s hard for the donor to read, the idea of receiving a handwritten letter is powerful enough to overcome it.
And the results will speak for themselves.
Photo credit: Turtles courtesy of Walt Kaesler.