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Guest Blog: A Year-End Appeal Success Story

LC headshotBoulder Valley Women’s Health Center stepped up their fundraising best practices in 2014 and the result was a 45% increase in year-end gifts over the prior year!

Development Director Lindsay Christopher tells us how they did it:

We use our year-end appeal as an important part of our donor renewal and upgrading strategy, while our donor acquisition happens through other channels, such as Colorado Gives Day and some targeted patient and volunteer appeals.

Some simple yet strategic shifts in our year-end appeal gave a major boost to our donor retention efforts. Here’s what worked for us…

We began in January.

The work to ensure a successful year-end campaign goes on throughout the entire year. Create an annual calendar, and communicate with your donors regularly. Keep your messages simple and consistent.

In 2014, our board members made thank you calls to specific segments of donors quarterly, and in October they wrote hundreds of cards to our supporters. Efforts like this expressed personal appreciation to our donors and shared news about what their support had accomplished.

We kept Women’s Health fresh in their minds throughout the entire year, so they weren’t surprised to hear from us in November.

We created a plan.

In preparation for the year-end fundraising campaign, we created a calendar of communications and appeals and discussed the focus of the appeal letter and associated messaging. Our schedule ensured that messages were evenly spaced so recipients were not overwhelmed. It is important to be noticed without being a bother. It is also important to give yourself enough time to prepare; write a compelling letter and create the right list to send it to.

We segmented our donors.

In previous years, our annual appeal letter was sent to virtually everyone in our database. In 2014, we only sent letters to donors who had made gifts in recent years, which effectively cut out about 60% of the recipients.

Sure, it was a bit nerve wracking to know the appeal was going to less than half of the people it had before. However, the strategy certainly proved worthwhile as it not only brought down printing and postage costs, but the number of gifts we received actually increased by more than 30%. And, the response rate jumped from 8% up to 25%.

We customized the ask.

Pulling giving history (including last gift and average gift amounts), we created individualized ask amounts to include in each solicitation letter. Doing this can require a fairly significant time investment depending on the size of your list and quality of your data, as you want to ensure the amounts are reasonable.

Generally, we asked for 120% of the donor’s average gift amount. We also included the donor’s first name twice within the body of the letter. On average people gave 123% of the ask amount (which were stretch amounts to begin with).

Letting our donors know exactly how much we hoped they would be able to give proved to be a fairly simple way to grow our average gift amount this year from $250 up to $275.

We got ourselves noticed.

Many of us receive more emails than we can possibly read each day, and messaging from most organizations ramps up around the holidays. The content of your appeal will not matter if no one sees it. We added a tagline to the outer envelope about the exciting news inside, and added our Executive Director’s name to the return address line for a more personal feel.

Because we were able to save postage costs by cutting our segment down, we also sent a reminder postcard to those who had not yet given. Our appeal letter arrived in homes earlier than before (near November 20th) and the postcard followed in mid-December.

We were consistent and clear.

People do not spend time reading your communications as closely as you do, and while they might support the mission, they are generally not experts on your organization or its programs. We kept our messaging simple, donor-focused and consistent throughout all channels; appeal letter, email, remittance envelope, website, newsletter, reminder postcard, and social media. Our language focused on how a donor feels when making a gift to Women’s Health.

Nothing beats finishing your year with record breaking fundraising success. Realizing that a strong year-end campaign involves more than sending a letter can lead to significantly improved results.

Some simple shifts and focus on proven strategies certainly made for a happy New Year at Women’s Health!

Thanks to Lindsay for sharing her story!  If you’d like to know more about Boulder Valley Women’s Health Center, just click here.  We welcome guest blogs with your success stories.  Let us know if you’ve got something to share with the Front Range Source community by contacting us here.

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