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Haven’t Started Your Year-End Appeal? It’s Not Too Late!

Our inboxes are starting to buzz with questions from people who are working (or not yet working) on their year-end appeal.

Many fundraising shops already have their year-end campaign all planned out. But if you don’t – don’t panic. Right now – on October 25th – it’s still not too late to get started.

Some of you may be wondering what the big rush is. Here’s why you want to get your appeal out by Thanksgiving:

  • Many donors – especially major donors – make their giving decisions in the fourth quarter before the holidays hit.
  • The crush of holiday mail and online marketing means that it is even more likely that your letter or e-mail will get lost or overlooked
  • Sending your annual appeal earlier allows you the time to follow-up with those that haven’t responded more effectively

Would it better if you had done it earlier? Sure! But don’t let that stop you. Getting a year-end appeal ask to your donors now gets you in the running!

So, you’ve got 4 weeks until Thanksgiving. Here’s a week-by-week outline to get it done:

Week 1: Set a Goal and Make a plan

If you haven’t set a revenue goal before, now is the time to do it.

You can do it one of two ways. You can look at last year’s results and see what your response rate and average gift was, and create a goal based on those numbers.

Or you can determine what you need to raise to make your budget and see if that number is in the ball park of your what your year-end efforts have raised before.

However, you set your goal at this stage – do it fast. You and your donors need something to shoot for!

You’ll also need a plan of action. Don’t spend a lot of time at this point, but definitely create an Excel spreadsheet that says who does what and when. You’ll need to decide the scope of your year-end appeal. Will you do a letter? E-mail? Face-to-face visits? Telephone follow-up? Social Media campaign?

Consider the time and resources you have at your disposal and make a SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-bound) plan.

Week 2: Finalize your Message and Organize your Data

This can take a long time, but you don’t have it! Decide quickly what your year-end appeal message is going to be and what materials you’ll need to turn it into a letter, e-mail, or other form of communication.

There are several ways you can structure your appeal, but if you’re short on time consider the “What-we-did-last-year-and-what-we-want-to-do-next-year” Appeal. This outlines for the donors or prospect all the great things you did in 2017 and what things you are hoping to do – with their help – in 2018.

You’ll also need to organize your data as quickly as possible. Groups to definitely include in the appeal are: current donors, recently lapsed donors, volunteers, and other people who may not have given, but who have shown interest in your work by attending events, signing petitions, etc. Pay attention to your data as it comes out so that addresses and salutations are clean.

Week 3: Do the Writing and Design in-house

You don’t have the time at this point to do anything besides crank out this letter by yourself. So, light a candle (this is what I do when I’m writing!) and just sit down and write your first draft. Keep refining it and get feedback quickly. Try to keep the approval loop tight and focused.

Also, keep in mind that some of the most successful fundraising asks have very limited  design. In fact, many tests have been conducted that the more simple and personal a piece of mail or e-mail looks, the better the response rate. Don’t get too fancy!

Week 4: Send out your year-end appeal letter as early as you can before Thanksgiving Day!

Gather a bunch of volunteer together and get them printing, stuffing, stamping, and maybe even adding personal notes to your letters.

If you are organizing e-mail or telephone campaigns, confirm your plans now so that these things are firmly in place. Once Thanksgiving is over, time accelerates quickly and you’ll need the space to respond to donors and follow-up.

You can do it! With a tight plan and some in-house elbow grease, you can get your year-end appeal nailed down by Thanksgiving.

And if you feel like you need a little help, you can check out our Year-End Appeal Bundle. It has all kinds of templates, reports, and tips for that last minute mad dash.

Good luck and let us know how it goes!


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