03 Mar Spring Appeal Planning
So did you write your appeal letters in February? Got a good idea for your renewal and Fall Appeal letter campaigns? Have you considered doing a Spring Appeal? I’ve played around with spring appeal letters since my early days with The Nature Conservancy, and I can share a few thoughts.
Fundraiser’s Almanac: March
- Spring Appeal Planning
- Editing Appeal Letters
- Print the First Renewal Letters Now
- Foundation/Corporate Due Dates
First, think of a Spring Appeal as member communication more so than a fundraising letter. You will get less response than an appeal letter mailed in the Fall, because most people prefer to give toward the end of the year. So Spring Appeals tend to be more challenging. But sending them and making them attractive enough to get opened can have some significant communications benefits that go beyond simply asking for a donation.
The letter itself should be written in the four-page style (See Writing Appeal and Recruitment Letters, and A Dozen Rules for Writing Better Appeal Letters). And I would definitely send a follow-up letter a month later. You could time the first for Earth Day and the follow-up for late May, or move both to earlier in the year.
So what do you need to raise money for? Stewardship? A small project? New office equipment? Even more so than the Fall appeal, “Specific” works in the Spring. More people will give if they believe the money is being raised for a specific high-priority project.
This does not mean that it can’t be for operations, but that it should be some specific project or program normally funded by operations, such as the development of a new website, or the purchase of a new stewardship vehicle.
Again, even more so than in the Fall, try to make your Spring Appeal FUN! Give it texture by including a small packet of native seeds or a window decal. Change the color of the carrier envelope, perhaps to blue or even craft paper – something that will stand out in the mail.
Also, matching gifts work particularly well in Spring Appeals, because they spur giving from those who might not otherwise pay attention.
Especially for a second letter, you might consider asking for stuff other than money: specific tools perhaps, or a copier. (People wishing to help could always contribute money toward these items if they don’t have them to give.) The second letter could also carry a thermometer device showing how close to the goal you are after the first letter.
One of my current clients is considering asking for volunteer time and is using the letter to describe various volunteer tasks that are in need of attention. I’ll have to let you know how that works out.
Segregate your audience into at least the following groups:
- Members currently in their renewal cycle (don’t send the appeal to these people)
- Members who give less than $100 – ASK FOR $100
- Members who give between $100 and $250 – ASK FOR $250
- Members who give more than $250 – CASE BY CASE, Consider visiting them
Regardless of what you are asking for, BE SPECIFIC, even if the request is for volunteer time. You are much more likely to get a positive response if you are specific.
So, planning-wise, you will need:
- A specific project and a goal
- Projected drop dates (the dates you plan to send the letters)
- A four-page letter and appeal package to go with it (use board letterhead)
- Something to add texture and/or design interest for the outside envelope
- Segregated membership
After that, there is NO REASON NOT TO PRINT THE LETTERS NOW (except to read next week’s blog about Editing Appeal Letters). Print the letters with an April or May date, fold and stuff them, seal them and put stamps on. Then put them in a box on a shelf with the drop date written on the outside.
One More Thing – If you do a Spring Appeal three years in a row, you will end up with some donors who gave every year, some who gave one or two of them, and a bunch who did not give at all. If you’ll keep track of this latter group, you won’t need to mail to them in year 4.
Got appeal letter stories? Please consider sharing them here.
Photo credit: Heartleaf Arnica by Walt Kaesler.