08 Aug Seven Reminders to Help You Get the Most Out of Your Fall Fundraising
8 August 2023
By David Allen, Development for Conservation
If you think about it, you will ask every person connected with your land trust to make a gift between now and year’s end. HOW that happens and WHEN that happens are still changeable.
- SOME people will be “renewing,” meaning that they made a gift last year but haven’t yet made a gift this year. This requires a “renewal” letter – usually on the short side and followed by reminders.
- SOME people will have already made a gift this year – they will be asked to make a second gift. This requires a different kind of letter – an appeal letter – much longer in general (four pages!) and based around a story.
- SOME people will have given a gift in 2021 or even before that and will not have given since. They can get the appeal letter, too, but it should be modified slightly to emphasize “coming back.”
And for most, the money raised between Labor Day and New Year’s represents more than 70% of what you will raise the entire year. As you complete your summer plans and prepare to enter the Fall fundraising season, here are some timely reminders to help you get the most from your efforts.
You’re raising money from people who already give you money.
As tempting as it might be to appeal to lots of people who don’t know you yet, marketing will cost you money. Under most circumstances, you will spend more money recruiting new donors than you will gain from their contribution.
Now is the time for fundraising. So focus on communicating with and soliciting those who have made gifts to you in the past. This explicitly includes immediately past LAPSED members and donors.
This is not to discourage recruitment – just don’t do it at the expense of raising money!
Use email and social media, but don’t depend on it.
You will get whatever you’re going to with email and social media – including Giving Tuesday – within a couple of days. After that, the world moves on. Definitely use it – those who will give or renew off an email or Facebook message will cost you very little. There just won’t be many of them. I’ve had several people tell me that they got and ignored five or six emailed renewal notices. But when they got the one in the mail, they quickly went to their computer and renewed online. (And don’t confuse online fundraising with online giving!)
It is worthwhile to evaluate Giving Tuesday results without including gifts from Board members. Presumably they would have given regardless. Also, consider that the most significant result from Giving Tuesday might be the matching gift. Most of the time, that gift was not solicited electronically.
Follow-up with third and even fourth communications, even with letters.
Follow-up can feel like badgering, because it would for us. But that assumes that people are receiving what you are sending and saying No. Most often, that’s not the case. Some are receiving and delaying, but most are simply NOT receiving.
If you’re emailing, email four or five times in a couple of months. If you’re sending letters, send two or three in that same span. If you’re calling and leaving voice mail, call again in a couple of weeks. Most people have good intentions, but it’s easy to put things aside and hard to remember to come back to them.
Keep in mind that different channels support each other. A phone call reminder works wonders for event invitations. And if one of the renewals hasn’t responded after several letters, call them, too. Emailed reminders and social media can support paper appeal letters.
Face-to-face is better than any other contact medium.
You know this. Face-to-face is more effective than phone calls. Phone calls are more effective than personal letters. Personal letters are more effective than form letters with personal notes. And so on.
So get yourself out the door and meet donors in person to the limit of your availability (and their willingness to meet). Bring them to the land if you can. Take advantage of time you can spend with donors at special events, including field trips and small events such as house parties. Thank them! for their loyal support, and ask them to look for the annual appeal letter in the mail.
And remember that there is great cultivation value in the invitation, even if you can’t meet in person.
Use the phone!
Pick up the phone and call people. Most of the time you’ll be leaving messages, and that’s OK. Work from a script so you don’t fumble your words, and use the message to remind people of the time of the year and of the letter or email you just sent them. Be sure to mention your title as well as your name, and leave your cell phone number for them to call back.
HINT: You WANT people to call you back!
Save your images for the envelopes.
Don’t complicate your letters visually by embedding photos into your letters. They tend to draw the eye of readers more strongly than anything else, and normally they don’t communicate the message that “it’s time to renew” or give again. They might be pretty and graphically pleasing, but you only have so much of a reader’s attention span. Don’t waste it.
Instead, choose a photograph to be printed on the envelope. It will help your letter stand out in the mail, and might help more people open the envelope. There is a strong correlation between people who open the envelope and people who respond (by giving money). Anything you can do on the envelope to help people WANT to open it will help you raise more money. Embedded photos in the letter itself will detract.
Thank donors immediately.
Gear yourself up for an immediate acknowledgement process. Don’t wait. In many important ways, you are operating in a competitive environment. If the donor’s other three charities thank them within a day or two, you don’t want to be the one sending a thank you letter two weeks later.
The reverse is true as well. If other charities take weeks, sending letters out immediately helps you stand out in a positive way. Also, think about saying thank you in several different ways. Perhaps an immediate letter or email could be followed by a more thoughtful handwritten card or call from a Board member.
Did I mention using the phone?
Cheers, and have a great week!
PS: Your comments on these posts are welcomed and warmly requested. If you have not posted a comment before, or if you are using a new email address, please know that there may be a delay in seeing your posted comment. That’s my SPAM defense at work. I approve all comments as soon as I am able during the day.
Photo by ADD courtesy pixabay