Make Fall Fundraising Easier – Use July to Prepare!

Make Fall Fundraising Easier – Use July to Prepare!

July officially starts on Friday – Yikes! – Are you ready? What’s on your list for July? Annual Meetings? Summer field trips? Donor visits?

Here’s what I’m thinking about…


Planning My Fall Appeal – If you followed my advice back in February, you will have a draft of your Fall Appeal letter already written. The draft will use what you learned from last year’s appeal as well as your current year’s communications theme. There is no reason not to pull that letter out now, create several versions to meet the needs of your segmented donor file, and PRINT THEM ALL NOW. Print the letters with a September 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 less chore for the fall! – which will make time for major gift prospects visits.

Plan NOW to start right after Labor Day. Make appointments to go visit your biggest friends. Take a board member with you! Or better yet, assign the task to board members who are willing to go meet with donors – no ask involved! In the meetings, share the organizational vision for the next few years, listen for the points they are most interested in, and tell a story related to one of their interests. Tell them how important their on-going support is. And ask them to keep you in their philanthropic plans again this fall. The “appeal” letter is a follow-up to that visit, and asks them to carry on their support for another year with a gift of a specific amount.


Getting Ready for Fall Foundation Deadlines – Board members can play an important role in supporting the business of writing foundation proposals. July is a great time to organize that support, and it all starts with systematically finding out who they know. Last year’s post listed the steps necessary to organize that process. It included this:

Print a list of Foundation board members and key grants staff. Circulate it at a board meeting. Ask each board member to scan the list and indicate whether they know the individuals personally or whether they know someone else who does. Don’t expect your board members to know many people. They won’t. But DO capture the connections you find in your database and keep it current.


Evaluating My Fundraising Year So Far – Given what you know right now, where will you be at year’s end? Go ahead – stick your neck out and take a WAG. Will you make your fundraising goals? For this to work, you must have budgeted well in the first place. You must have a fundraising goal that is specifically tied to your program goals, and it is clearly broken down by audience and activity.

Then, the forecasting question is simply this: Given what I know right now about what foundations have committed and what grant requests are still out there, and what I know right now about membership, major gift requests, corporate fundraising, and so on, can I still project getting to my fundraising goal for the year? July is really the first time that you have enough information to attempt this exercise. Obviously, the closer you get to December, the better your WAG will be. But do it nonetheless. Forewarned is forearmed. If trying to forecast now means that you avoid a head-on collision in December and January, your effort will be worthwhile


Getting Ready to Talk to My Mailhouse – July is a good time to go have a meeting with your mailhouse. Take a copy of the letter you prepared earlier to show (and weigh!) and talk to them about list segmentation, timing, and copy deadlines. Have you made some of these mistakes? (I have.)

  • Having the weight of an insert push the total weight just over the allowable limit (results in extra postage or even rejected mail).
  • Having the special envelope your designer came up with measure out larger in some dimension than the maximum allowed by the post office (results in extra postage or even rejected mail).
  • Not printing addresses with barcodes on the envelopes (could have saved money on postage with printed barcodes).
  • Printing the return address, in attractive script!, on the back side of the envelope (if the return address is not printed on the front side of the envelope, undeliverable mail will not be returned).
  • Printing the indicia, return address, “to” address, or bar code too, high, low, small, or large (results in extra postage or even rejected mail).
  • Not clearly printing “Nonprofit Organization”, “NONPROFIT ORG”, or “NONPROFIT” in the stamp area (results in extra postage or even rejected mail).





Photo credit: South Lake Tahoe, United States by Kimson Doan, courtesy of

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Never underestimate the value of inviting someone to an event – even if they cannot come. It’s flattering to be included to be invited to participate. They may not be able to come, and they may not even respond at all. But the value is still there.

Using similar logic, don’t underestimate the informational value of letter appeals. If the projects, programs, and stories are compelling, people remember the information even if they do not participate in the appeal (ie give). Sure, many people throw direct mail away unopened. But many people also read it even if they do not themselves respond.


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Fundraiser’s Almanac
Here’s what I’ve been thinking about for June. What are YOU thinking about?


Getting ready to ask my $250 donors to give $1,000 this year – Donor clubs with a $1,000 or greater threshold represent the most significant source of unrestricted fundraising growth available to most land trusts. 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. Nonetheless, few techniques are more effective. Now – in June – is a great time to start planning it.


Publishing my Annual Report – The most important value for an Annual Report is as a sales piece. Done well, the Annual Report can reinforce the theme you chose back in January and the decisions your members made last year to support your work. It seems obvious, but a little thought given here can make a world of difference.


Sharing Good News with my donors: Now (June) is a good time to find some Good News to share as a specific strategy for advancing donor cultivation. Find something that has recently happened and that hasn’t yet been publicized otherwise. Something that you can share with your donors that they won’t have already heard elsewhere.


Housecleaning: June is a good month to clean up your files and your database – or at least set the clean-up in motion. Last year I wrote about both.

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