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August 23, 2017

Get a Head Start on Your Year-End Appeal

Here in Colorado our kids are already going back to school. It’s all about backpacks, class schedules, and getting on a schedule.

As a fundraiser, I’ve always felt this time of year was also a time of transition, from a relatively quiet summer to the increasingly frenetic pace of the giving season. It’s also been a good time for me to reflect and plan, particularly for the year-end appeal that can be so critical to budgetary success!

Before all the craziness begins, use this time to thoughtfully consider your year-end appeal plans.

Here are 4 steps you can take right now to get a head start:

1 Set goals and objectives:

Compare your fundraising results so far to your budget and see how much you need to raise for your annual appeal. You’ll also need to look at performance numbers from your last year-end campaign to determine where there were opportunities for improvement. Your previous results will also help you to set the bar for this year. (See our Year-End Analysis worksheet in our free Toolbox for help with this.)

Once you’ve done this analysis, you are ready to set some goals and objectives around your year-end appeal. These don’t just have to be about the money! You should have objectives around response rates, renewal rates, and numbers of new donors as well.

2 Gather ideas for theme:

Every year-end appeal needs a unifying theme or story. Even if it’s just a “year in review” request for general operating funds. Start kicking ideas around with your program and communications staff. What are they most concerned about? Where do they see opportunities to “move the needle”?  What would they do if they had a bunch of money fall into their laps?

These questions frame any successful fundraising campaign. It’s not just about the great things your organization has accomplished. It’s about what donor contributions made possible and what could be done with more.

3 Collect stories and photos:

This is a great time to sit down with your communications staff and ask them about stories of impact they’ve heard, important news articles they’ve seen, and moving photos and video footage related to your chosen theme.

Year-end appeals are more than just a letter. E-mail and social media play a big role in getting people to respond. The more personal, emotional, and inspirational you can make your request with images and testamonials, the better your campaign will do.

4 Segment, segment, segment:

Critical to the success of your annual appeal will be your ability to segment your donors into groups so that you can create a campaign that speaks to them in as personal a way as possible. Most organizations create segments for major donors so that this group gets a more personal appeal that a $25 donor. Some organizations segment out volunteers so that their campaign message is tailored to their commitment to the organization. Organizations also specifically target donors who haven’t given in a while with a special message.

Your segments will depend on your fundraising strategy and your resources. While it would be great to speak to lots of groups of donors in a personal way, it does take time and additional funds to make it happen. Too many segments and you can drive yourself crazy!

What else are you doing to get ready for your year-end campaign? We’d love to add your plan of action on to the list!


1 Comment

  1. Carl Peterson says:

    I have just started working with an local organization that is trying to raise money for an aged community building here in Loveland, the Pulliam building, and they have not done a good job in raising money from smaller individual donors. Maybe an annual appeal would be a good place to reenergize and develop a good donor list. I have suggested they they touch base with you. I hope to make that happen soon. In the meantime I am headed to Idaho to give my daughter’s hand away in marraige, so will be back in September and will touch base.

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