08 Aug Don’t Overdo Renewal Letters
Many land trusts renew their members in the Fall and many are now scrambling to produce renewal letters. Some I’ve seen, and they lead me to make the following recommendation to everyone:
Don’t overdo it!
Renewal letters need to do three things: They need to remind me of WHY I’m a member. They need to remind me of what I gave last year. And they need to suggest an increased level of support this year. And they need to do all that in an emotional – not data-driven – way.
The most common way to overdo it is to try and resell the donor on the merits of the organization. I still see a lot of those letters – the kind I call “Annual Accomplishment Letters.”
We had a great year. We finished this project. Added these acres. Successfully completed the bike-a-thon. Burned that prairie. Recruited more members. And had a great time at the Gala.
But for all that success, we have so much more to do. So, your membership renewal is more important now than ever. Please give again.
Increasingly, though, the message that those kinds of letters are all about the organization, whereas the more effective letters are all about the donor seems to be getting through. I’ve written often about eliminating pronouns like “us, we, and our.” Other bloggers have encouraged letter-writers to “make the appeal about the donor,” increasing the use of the “you” pronoun. This is one example of the result:
Because of you, we had a great year. Because of you, we finished this project. Because of you, we added these acres. Because of you, we successfully completed the bike-a-thon. Burned that prairie. Recruited more members. And you had a great time at the Gala.
That’s not really what we meant.
Here’s a letter I reviewed recently that was closer.
Thank you for all that you do! As a __________member, you are the first line of defense – sometimes the only line of defense – for our waterways and woodland corridors, and the wildlife that depend on them for survival. I’m writing to ask you, please, to renew your membership today.
Make no mistake – you are needed.
Pollution from stormwater runoff spells serious trouble for fish, wildlife, and anyone who enjoys a cool dip on a hot day. Stronger storms mean rising pollution in hundreds of streams across our region. Riverside woodlands and core forests can cool the land and water even as global temperatures rise – but only if these life-sustaining lands remain intact.
The mission is urgent. Without you, it is impossible.
I want you to know how much we appreciate your membership gift last year of XXXX, and all that you make possible.
This year, I am asking you to consider a gift of $100. If you can give more, I humbly ask you to consider as large a gift as possible or call me personally to discuss something more specific. If $100 won’t work for you, please find an amount that does. No gift is too small.
You are valued. You are needed. You are the heart and soul of this Valley.
Nice. The letter was printed in 13 pt type. The Flesch-Kincaid reading level was 6.3. And it fit on a single side of a single page.
Renewal letters need to do three things: They need to remind me of WHY I’m a member – because I’m the first line of defense – sometimes the only line of defense. They need to remind me of what I gave last year – we appreciate your membership gift last year of XXXX, and all that you make possible. And they need to suggest an increased level of support this year – consider a gift of $100. And they need to do all that in an emotional – not data-driven – way. Because I am the heart and soul of this Valley.
And here’s a secret to learning to write great renewal letters that will only cost you $105 a year. Become a $35 member of three organizations that you feel are doing a great job. (If you need some help, ask me, and I’ll point some out.) Next year, when you start getting renewal letters from these three – ignore them.
You should get the entire sequence of letters those organizations use to renew their members. You’ll also get the newsletters, appeal letters, annual reports, lapsed letters, and so on that you can crib from.
In the meantime, join three more for another $105. If you renew the first group in the third year and the second group in the fourth year, you’ll get plenty of information from the six organizations to make writing renewal letters a lot easier.
(Of course, you could also just call them and ask for the material, but where’s the fun in that?)
Let me know how it goes for you this year.
Photo by Andrzej courtesy of Stocksnap.io.