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Published on Feb 17

Tips for your spring fundraising appeal package

spring fundraising appeal letter

It’s time to start planning your spring appeal. Before we get into techniques that can amp up you appeal, let’s keep in mind the basics:

 

  • The more your reader feels like your appeal is a personal letter to them and only them, the more likely you are to get their attention.
  • The message is the crucial part of the appeal. An emotional story about how their gift makes a significant difference in someone’s life will motivate them to give.

 

Now let’s look at some ways you can increase the response to your fundraising appeal package:

 

  • Want to make your appeal package feel like a personal letter? Use a closed face envelope with a stamp and no teaser copy. The salutation in the letter should include the name of the individual. The reply form should also be personalized with the individual’s name, and suggested giving amounts should be customized for each individual based on that individual’s most recent gift. (For a sample, e-mail us at [email protected].)  This may be an excellent choice for your best givers or for segments of your list that you have targeted for increased giving, but the extra cost may not be justified for low-level givers or for an acquisition mailing. (Read more about personalizing your appeal letter.)
  • A very low-cost package that continues to produce well is an 8.5 x 14 sheet that includes both the letter and response form, a #10 window envelope and a #9 reply envelope. Click to see a sample. Another advantage of this package is that it allows you to code the reply form, making gift processing much easier and quicker.
  • Here’s an interesting idea: copy a testimonial letter from someone who was helped by your services and use it as part of your appeal package. Make sure the letter you choose includes specifics about how you helped. Create a handwritten note from the executive director (reproduced on a printing press) and mail. This is low cost and very effective. If done right, each of the 50, 500, 5,000 or 50,000 readers will think you sent them a personal note. (E-mail us at [email protected] and we’ll send you a sample.)

 

We can help you select the best package for your spring appeal based on the list you are mailing to. In addition to increasing results, we may be able to help you save money on production. For example, including a brochure usually doesn’t increase response rate or average gift. Save your money!

 

If acquisition is part of your spring appeal, and you know it should be, we can help with prospect lists to match your current donor profile.

 

Contact Fundraising Assets at 1-888-244-4013 or e-mail me at [email protected].  We can talk about packages that will help you reach your goals.

 

Fundraising Assets helps busy fundraising professionals raise more money, save valuable time and reduce costs. We offer consulting, writing, design and production services for direct mail and e-mail fundraising, social networking and more.

Posted Under Uncategorized | 20 Comments

Published on Jan 31

Mining for gold in your database

Mining for gold in the fundraising database

When you send a fundraising appeal letter, you probably send the same letter to everyone in your database, whether they gave you $10 for the first time last year or have been donating $100 every year since 1992.

 

You can be more productive if you identify the segments of your database that offer the greatest potential and create a special campaign designed just for that segment.

 

You will have different goals for different segments. For example, you’ll want to move that $100 giver up to a higher level of giving. You’ll want to turn a lapsed donor into a current donor. Sending the same appeal letter to everyone in your database won’t help you meet these goals.

 

Here are some segments that you should concentrate on:

 

Lapsed donors. Someone who has given to you once is a better prospect than someone who has never given to you. Bringing a lapsed donor back is more cost effective than finding new donors. How do you do that? Craft an appeal letter that makes them feel important to your cause and makes them feel missed. Notice we didn’t say “tell” them that you miss them. The emotion is critical; this  communication depends on how they feel. If you can get that lapsed donor to give one more time, he or she may continue to give for years.

 

The donor in the middle. These are the donors who give repeatedly, and give more than the average gift. However, they are not major donor prospects (yet). A special effort can get some to upgrade to a higher level and become a major gift prospect.

 

New donors. Only 30-40 percent of new donors give a second gift. But of those who give a second gift, 60-80 percent will give again. You can see that persuading them to give that second gift is vital, and worth the effort of preparing a letter geared to this group.

 

In memory of/in honor of. If you can motivate this group to remember the person they first gave for every year, they may give over and over again.

 

 

 

If you need help analyzing your data and creating a plan to raise more money by segmenting your database, contact Fundraising Assets at 1-888-244-4013 or [email protected]  After we listen to what you want to accomplish and agree on a plan, we can tell you up front what you will need to budget to get the help you want.

 

 Fundraising Assets helps busy fundraising professionals raise more money, save valuable time and reduce costs. We offer consulting, writing, design and production services for direct mail and e-mail fundraising, social networking and more.

Posted Under Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Published on Jan 27

What Kodak’s experience with blogging can teach nonprofits

Photo from one of Kodak's blogs
Photo from one of Kodak’s blogs showing an employee’s family

 

 

Yesterday I had the pleasure to attend a wonderful presentation by Jennifer Cisney, chief blogger at the Eastman Kodak Company. The event was sponsored by the Advertising Club of Buffalo.

 

Listening to Jennifer, people at our table expressed envy for the grand scale of Kodak’s social media effort. The company has not one, but three blogs, each with a different purpose. In addition to having a “chief blogger” and staff to interact with people on their own blogs, Kodak also plans to hire a “chief listener,” who will search to see what people are saying about Kodak on other sites and other blogs.

 

Still, Kodak’s experience with blogging offers many lessons for nonprofits, even small ones.

 

Why should I have a blog and open myself up to the possibility of negative comments?

If you’re lucky, people are already talking about your organization, Jennifer said, but you may not know  what they’re saying because the conversation is happening elsewhere. What’s worse than people saying bad things about your organization is that they may not be talking about you all! You need to enter the conversation, and having a blog is a way to do that.

 

If people have a complaint with your organization, it’s great if they post it on your blog because you have the opportunity to make things right with that customer or client or supporter.

 

“It should be seen as an opportunity to turn the situation around,” Jennifer said.

 

Comments generally aren’t as nasty as people fear. Jennifer suggests that one way to keep the conversation civil is to make your blog human. Kodak’s blogs aren’t anonymous announcements from a corporation, but are personal stories written by employees. Posts are written by various employees, and each post carries the person’s name and title, along with his or her photo.

 

“Putting a real person in front of someone really makes a difference,” she said.

 

One employee talks about how she gave birth prematurely, and the baby was whisked away to an intensive care unit. The mother saw her baby for the first time through a photo taken with a Kodak camera. Your nonprofit should have lots of compelling stories you can tell that put a face on your organization.

 

 

How do I convince management that we should do a blog?

What Jennifer did was create a mock-up of the blog to show other people in her organization. When they saw the kinds of stories that would run in the blog, they were more comfortable with the idea. If organizations similar to yours already have a blog, show those blogs to management, too.

 

Get others to help you.

Even though Kodak has a chief blogger, Jennifer doesn’t write all the posts herself! She has 20 to 30 people on a schedule who write posts, and there are more than 100 people who have posted at one time or another; some have written just one post. You may be the person who organizes the blog, but you can enlist others in your organization to write material that you post.

 

Some posts on the Kodak blogs are just a photo and a caption. That’s a great way for a nonprofit to tell a story, and it’s a timesaver, too!

 

 

Some rules that are good for any blog:

  • Write good posts
  • Be human
  • Be honest and open
  • Update regularly

 

 

To figure out how to work social media into your fundraising strategy,  contact us  at 1 (888) 244‑4013 or [email protected].

 

Fundraising Assets helps busy fundraising professionals raise more money, save valuable time and reduce costs. We offer consulting, writing, design and production services for direct mail and e-mail fundraising, social networking and more.

 

Posted Under Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Published on Jan 25

What to look for in an expert audit

audit of appeal letter can help you raise more money

In a recent post, we explained how an audit of your appeal package can help you raise more money. In this post, we discuss what you should look for in an audit.

 

An audit should do more than identify strengths and weaknesses. It must also recommend changes to help you raise more money, save valuable time and cut costs.

 

A good audit will evaluate:

 

Mailing package. The fundraising appeal package includes not only the appeal letter, but the envelope, response device, response envelope and any other pieces you include in your package.

 

Response form. Did you know that the amounts in the check boxes on your  response form can affect the amount the donor gives? An audit can help you construct an effective response form.

 

Mailing list. A good mailing always starts with a good list. An audit can help you make sure your list is as effective as possible. In addition, there may be ways to target your message to different groups of donors on your list. For example, you might target one version of your appeal letter to people who gave last year, and target another version to people who have given in the past, but skipped last year.

 

Scheduling. Most organizations should ask their donors for money more often than they do, but are hesitant because they’re not sure how their donors will react. An expert can help you decide whether it makes sense for you to mail to your supporters more often.

 

Copy and creative. Your letter should strike an emotional chord with the reader, and the design should amplify your message.

 

Thank you process. Your “thank you” is as important as your “please” when it comes to building strong relationships with donors. Thanking donors is a process, not a dull form letter. Make sure your audit addresses your “thank you” as well as your “ask.”

 

 

To learn more about fundraising audits contact us at fundraisingassets.com/contact, at 1 (888) 244‑4013 or [email protected].

 

Fundraising Assets helps busy fundraising professionals raise more money, save valuable time and reduce costs. We offer consulting, writing, design and production services for direct mail and e-mail fundraising, social networking and more.

Posted Under Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Published on Jan 21

AFP presentation on social media for nonprofits

Nonprofits can reach donors with social mediaThe Association of Fundraising Professionals Western New York Chapter yesterday held a presentation on social media presented by Matt Hames, social media strategist with Eric Mower and Associates.

 

The excellent presentation, “Social Media for Non-Profits: Essentials of Integrating Social Media into Your Development Plan,” covered so much ground that I couldn’t do it justice if I tried to present a complete overview here. Instead, I’ll touch on a couple of main points that Matt made, and highlight a few things that might be new to you.

 

Think of social media as a room full of people.

You want to get people into your room and get them talking. This is different from traditional media where your organization would send out messages to be received by your audience.

 

“It’s not your nonprofit organization shouting at people; you want it to be more of a conversation,” Matt explained.

 

Set goals.

“Don’t start a Facebook page just because everyone else has one,” Matt said.

 

You wouldn’t buy space on a billboard just because another nonprofit organization used billboards, he pointed out. In the same way, use a social media tool only if it helps advance your goals. If you can’t see a way how a certain social media tool will take you toward your goals, don’t use that tool.

 

Social media takes time, and if you don’t have goals, social media will waste your time, he said.

 

Older people are sharing more with social media.

Don’t dismiss social media because your donor base is older and you don’t think they use it. Older people are using social media more. In fact, Matt’s 80-year-old aunt friended him on Facebook and sent a picture from Florida.

 

ammado.

You may not be familiar with ammado, launched a little more than a year ago. You can list your nonprofit there and receive donations, share information about what you’re doing and engage with partners and other nonprofits around the world. ammado says it “connects nonprofits, socially responsible companies and engaged individuals in a unique environment of shared interests, and supplies the tools necessary to support online campaigning, fundraising, engagement and communication.”

 

Google Earth.

“If your story can be told with a map, Google wants to help you tell it,” Matt said.

 

For example, if your organization works to prevent violence, you might use a map to show where violence has occurred in a neighborhood in the past year.

 

For a fuller explanation of how nonprofit organizations might use maps to tell a story, Matt suggested this explanation at Tech Soup.

               

 

Ditch your fax number for your Twitter name.

How often do you get faxes? Probably not often, yet your fax number is still on your business card. Delete your fax number and use that space to tell people how they can connect with you on social media.

 

By the way, you can view the slides from Matt’s presentation on social media for nonprofits at the Sonoma Grill at http://www.slideshare.net/mrhames . You can also follow Matt on Twitter @mhames.

 

 

 

How is your nonprofit using social media? What is working for you? Please comment!

 

 

 

If you need help preparing a social media plan for your nonprofit organization,  contact us at fundraisingassets.com/contact, at 1 (888) 244‑4013 or [email protected].

 

Fundraising Assets helps busy fundraising professionals raise more money, save valuable time and reduce costs. We offer consulting, writing, design and production services for direct mail and e-mail fundraising, social networking and more.

Posted Under Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Published on Jan 18

7 reasons to seek expert analysis of your fundraising appeal package

audit of appeal package can help you raise more money 

 

Having a fundraising expert analyze your appeal package is an investment you should consider as you create your marketing strategy for the rest of the year.

Here’s why :

 

1. The economy is tough. You need to raise more money. Paying an expert for a consultation is a tiny cost that could reap benefits throughout this year and for years to come. You’re not going to raise more money if you continue to spend money on postage, but keep on using the same old appeals that don’t increase your response.

 

2.You may know that your fundraising appeal package could use improvement, but you can’t quite figure out what to tweak.  If you did know what to change,  you would have already made the improvements! An expert can point out what you’re doing right, and what changes will be helpful.

 

3. It’s very valuable to read hints and tips. However, with new ideas, it can be difficult to see how they apply to your organization or how you might implement them. Having an expert show you how to put a great idea into practice can save you time and increase your response rate.

 

4. Every organization is different. Your mission is unique, your goals are unique, your donor database is unique. Something that worked well for another organization might not work for you. Talking to an expert team that has worked with many different groups over the years can help you zero in on what is most likely to meet your organization’s goals.

 

5. Even if you’re experienced, you can’t know everything. You may be able to write a great appeal letter, but you may not know what segments of your database to target in order to increase your giving. Do you know how often you should ask people for money, what dollar amounts to use on the response piece, how to create a design that amplifies the message in your text and how to keep print costs low? A team of experts can do what one person can’t do.

 

6. We’re all human. Sometimes we fall in love with our own writing or layout. We work so hard on an appeal letter, it’s hard to view it objectively. An outside expert can view your appeal package with fresh eyes.

 

7. Our bosses are human, too. Sometimes they don’t see their staff as fundraising experts. They may be more amenable to listening to a consultant, even if the consultant is echoing what you’ve already told them. (See our blog, “Get buy in from your boss and board.”) The report that results from your audit can be used by you to help get your leadership to commit to the changes you know need to be made— changes you may have been telling them about all along.

 

 

How might an audit of your appeal package help you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To learn more about fundraising audits contact us at fundraisingassets.com/contact, at 1 (888) 244‑4013 or [email protected].

 

Fundraising Assets helps busy fundraising professionals raise more money, save valuable time and reduce costs. We offer consulting, writing, design and production services for direct mail and e-mail fundraising, social networking and more.

Posted Under Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Published on Jan 11

Can your newsletter beat the competition?

fundraising newsletters compete for readers' attentionYour newsletter is fighting for your reader’s attention. You might think of your competition as newsletters from other nonprofit organizations, but that’s the least of it.

 

Also competing for your reader’s attention is the ringing phone, the whining dog and the unopened mail. How can you compete with competition like that? Here are some tips:

 

  • First, understand that the only person who reads your newsletter cover to cover is you. Even the people who say they read it cover to cover probably don’t read every article. Don’t take offense. Instead, embrace that knowledge and build the best newsletter you can for your readers by making yor newsletter skimmable.
  • Use headlines to steer your readers to articles that interest them. By the same token, readers who aren’t interested in a topic can tell from the headline that they can skip that article. That’s a good thing! It means you’re helping them save time that they can spend on the articles that do interest them.
  • Keep your articles short.
  • Use lists and bullets to make your text more skimmable.
  • Use photos to help tell the story. When you write the caption, be sure to add new information that isn’t available by simply looking at the picture. If the photo shows a boy holding a teddy bear, the caption shouldn’t read, “Joe Smith holds a teddy bear.” Instead, it should say something like, “Joe Smith is one of the children who received a new toy at the party sponsored by the Anytown Organization.”
  • Remember to ask for donations in several articles. If you ask for money in only one article, and your reader doesn’t look at that article, you haven’t asked that reader for a donation!

 

What are your favorite ways to make a newsletteer skimmable?

 

 

Don’t have time to do it all yourself? To learn how cost effective it can be to use a professional writer or designer for your next newsletter, contact us at  at 1 (888) 244‑4013 or [email protected].

 

Fundraising Assets helps busy fundraising professionals raise more money, save valuable time and reduce costs. We offer consulting, writing, design and production services for direct mail and e-mail fundraising, social networking and more.

Posted Under Uncategorized | 13 Comments

Published on Dec 20

Get buy in from your boss and board: Part 2

training for nonprofit boardsYou have a great fundraising idea, but can’t get buy in from your boss or the board. Instead of excitement over your well constructed plan, they begin to brainstorm new ideas. Use bright pink paper for your appeal letter to grab people’s attention, they suggest.

            In Part 1, we discussed some ways to get buy in from your board. Here we’ll take a look at training your board.

            Board members generally aren’t fundraising experts. They want to help, but without guidance, their efforts may be counterproductive—hence the suggestions for bright pink paper. They need to be guided in order to understand their role in fundraising.

            If you are the person in charge of fundraising, it falls to you to provide that guidance to the board, and perhaps even to the executive director. You could give them a primer in fundraising best practices, but it’s awkward. When you do the training, you are, in effect, delicately trying to tell your boss (or other person in a leadership position) how to do his or her job.

            The solution is to engage an outside expert for a brief, effective workshop for your leaders. That can help in two ways.

            First, the consultant may bring in fresh ideas for you.

            The second, and even more  important reason, is that the consultant can do what you are not in a position to do: train the leaders of your organization.

            It has nothing to do with how much you know. You’re simply not in a position to provide the training your board and executive staff needs.

            Working with a nonprofit consultant can make positive changes that can improve your fundraising efforts for years to come. A short on-line webinar can transform the leaders of your organization into  helpful allies instead of well-meaning obstacles.

 

Tom Harter, Partner

 

 

Not only can working with a consultant streamline your operations and maximize your fundraising efforts, it costs less than you may think. To find out more, contact Tom Harter, partner, at 1 (888) 244‑4013 or [email protected].

 

Fundraising Assets helps busy fundraising professionals raise more money, save valuable time and reduce costs. We offer consulting, writing, design and production services for direct mail and e-mail fundraising, social networking and more.

Posted Under Uncategorized | 1 Comments

Published on Dec 19

Getting buy in from your boss and board: Part 1

board training for nonprofits

Have you ever been frustrated because you have a great fundraising idea, but you can’t get buy in from your boss, board, development committee or other leader in your organization?

            You have carefully mapped out a fundraising strategy that will bring in much needed funding. You explain it in detail to your boss and other leaders.

            Instead of the excitement you expected (and the praise for your insight and hard work that you hoped for), they say the organization can’t afford it.

            As if that wasn’t bad enough, they start brainstorming ideas for you. Use bright pink paper for your appeal letter to grab people’s attention, they suggest. Or have the staff assemble the 20,000 piece mailing in their spare time.

            Aargh!

            Here we’ll discuss some suggestions on getting buy in from your board, and in Part 2 we’ll discuss training your board.

            Basics—is fundraising important? Many board members look at fundraising with distaste. They don’t want to have to personally ask people for money, so they distance themselves from fundraising discussions altogether. But if you don’t have funds, you don’t have a program. Make sure everyone understands that without fundraising, your organization’s mission would screech to a halt.

            Involve them from the beginning. Create a planning committee or development committee and invite key board members to join. If it’s handled right, the people who had been obstacles to your plans will become valuable partners.

            Include an outside fundaising expert in the planning process.

            There are two reasons for this:

            1. The fundraising expert can bring in valuable ideas, of course.

            2. You need allies.

            There’s a saying that a prophet isn’t valued in his own country. I know how that feels.

            At one point in my career, I was the fundraising director on the staff of a nonprofit organization. One time, I had just finished explaining a new strategy to the executive director. He looked at me and said, “I wonder how a professional fundraiser would advise us.”

            Wait a minute! I am a professional fundraiser, and I am advising you, I thought. The exchange was unfair. It was galling.

            But I learned something important that day: if I wanted to get the powers-that-be to adopt my ideas, one way I could do that was by bringing in an expert to work with me and advocate for me.

            Paying a consultant for just a few hours work can benefit you in two ways: you receive help with your strategy, and you receive help getting your strategy approved!

            Direct the planning process. When your committee convenes, start with a review of your organization’s goals. Explain how the planning process will work. People who aren’t familiar with fundraising will be tempted to stray away from the effective, but boring, methods. They may try to get “creative.” If you start getting suggestions on how all you have to do to raise more money is to use bright pink paper for your appeal letter, you know you’ll have to lead your committee members back to the basics.

            Again, it’s helpful to have a fundraising consultant at the table. A board member may think you don’t know how to do fundraising if you can’t see the sheer brilliance of his pink paper idea. But when the consultant also thinks it’s time to move away from discussing pink paper, the board member is more ready to concede that it might not be a good idea after all.

            Framing the finances. When money is tight, some see only the initial cost of a new fundraising project, and that expenditure stops them in their tracks.

            Instead, you and your consultant can reframe the conversation: How much does your organization have to spend to raise the money it needs?

            If you have business people on your board, you can enlist their help to explain ROI, or return on investment. Make sure when you report to the board, you emphasize how much money a fundraising project netted so that they don’t get distracted by what it cost.

 

 

            What techniques have you found helpful in getting approval for fundraising projects? Please share them in the comments section!

 

 

Tom Harter, Partner

 

 

Not only can working with a consultant streamline your operations and maximize your fundraising efforts, it costs less than you may think. To find out more, contact Tom Harter, partner, at 1 (888) 244‑4013 or [email protected].

 

Fundraising Assets helps busy fundraising professionals raise more money, save valuable time and reduce costs. We offer consulting, writing, design and production services for direct mail and e-mail fundraising, social networking and more.

Posted Under Uncategorized | 29 Comments

Published on Dec 16

Four ways to raise more money with your newsletter

 

raise money with fundraising newsletter

 

Please check out my guest article for thedatabank, a company that offers Web-based nonprofit software. thedatabank’s mission is to create positive social change through technology. Read “Four ways to raise more money with your newsletter” at http://www.thedatabank.com/connie_stofko_article.aspx

 

Connie Oswald Stofko
Partner, Fundraising Assets

 

Posted Under Uncategorized | 1 Comments

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