Are you making resolutions about your nonprofit’s fundraising for the new year? What you commit to STOP doing may be just as important as what you actually do. Click To Tweet
I want to say that in general, the dozens of appeal letters I received in 2023 were better than the ones you sent me five or ten years before. Congratulations! But I still see too many letters that make one (or all) of these mistakes:
- Sending your mail in a blank, standard-size envelope, with no return address. (The donor will pitch it into the recycling bin without reading it, and all your work will go to waste.)
- Using “Dear Friend” as your salutation instead of calling the donor by name. (Any decent database or CRM will help you solve that problem!)
- Omitting the postscript, which is one of the first things to catch a donor’s eye.
- Creating a “wall of text,” with narrow margins and no bold, italic, or underlined words to tell your story quickly.
- Leaving out photos and graphics.
- Talking about what the organization needs and not what the person or cause you’re trying to help needs. Similarly…
- Making the organization the hero when it should be the donor in that role!
- Talking about we, the organization–instead of we, the donor and the organization together!
- Telling a success story in the appeal letter. Nonprofits should be telling those stories all year long. In the appeal, tell the story of someone who still needs help, right now.
- Telling NO stories.
- Not making it easy to give. You need to include a reply vehicle and reply envelope AND tell people how to give online.
- Not asking for a specific amount that’s slightly higher than that same donor gave last year. (Again, this is a job for your CRM!)
- Not sending mail at all. Even if you made all the other mistakes, and even though email costs less, direct mail is still the most productive form of fundraising, so do not neglect it!
If you stop doing these things, you will bring in more money for your organization, both in 2024 and for the long term.
Thanks for reading! In coming weeks, I’ll take a look at some of the best appeal letters I got in 2023–and share ideas about what you can do right.