When your nonprofit sends out fundraising appeal letters, who are you talking to? It’s vital to know.
Imagine that you sent out a beautifully written appeal letter–to the wrong address. What are the chances that the person who received it would give, out of the blue? Are they a lot less likely to give than the person who’s already on your list? Of course! Your beautiful letter would be a waste of time and postage. What a shame!
Or imagine that you put a lot of time and effort into producing an appeal aimed at the interests of the donor…and then you called them by someone else’s name. (It happened to me!) Doesn’t your heart sink at the wasted effort–and potentially, the lost donor?
Literally knowing who you are talking to makes a huge difference. Knowing who you are talking to as in what they are interested in makes all the difference in the world.
Because they might not be interested in you.
A Fundraising Appeal that Didn’t Speak to Me
Last December, I received an appeal letter from an elder care organization that was so beautiful, I would use it as a model of what to do.
- The envelope had a return address and a lovely seasonal graphic.
- The graphic continued inside, as a border around the letter.
- The salutation said “Dear Dennis,” not Dear Mr. Fischman or Dear Friend.
- The letter included a story about one individual the organization helped.
- The text of the letter included bold type and a pull-quote to call the reader’s attention to the message.
- The reply vehicle included chances to give in honor or in memory of someone–very appropriate for an eldercare organization. It also made it simple to make a monthly donation, either by check or online.
With all these advantages, why didn’t the appeal letter work for me? It wasn’t talking to me!
The best-written fundraising appeal in the world won’t raise funds if the person who receives it doesn’t care about the organization that’s asking.
Yes, my mother lived at a home this organization bought about halfway through her three years there. And yes, the place kept her and all the other residents safe through the darkest days of the Covid pandemic, before the vaccines. I’m grateful for that.
But they did it by keeping residents isolated in their rooms. My mother, in her eighties, suffered greatly by not having anyone to talk to besides the people who delivered her meals on a tray and did her laundry. She declined physically and mentally, and it has taken years for her to gain back some of what she lost.
Mom is also a vegetarian, as many more old people will be in the coming years. The organization really did not know how to feed her. Too many days, meals consisted of grilled cheese for lunch and pasta and cheese for dinner.
Do they know they’re talking to someone who has mixed feelings about their assisted living home? They do not. Because they never asked.
So they send me a letter that’s aimed at people who have bought into their mission statement and their ability to deliver. And that’s not me.
Before you send out your next fundraising letter, please do your nonprofit a favor. That is, find out as much as you can about who you are talking to. Because I’d hate to see your lovely letter go into the recycling bin of someone you didn’t really mean to send it to at all.
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