The best reason to ask your donors more often to give

Lots of charities are shy about asking for donations. They don’t want to mail or email too often out of fear of seeming too pushy. And even in their appeals themselves, it seems like they’re trying to work up the courage to ask, with all the hemming and hawing and beating around the bush before coming out and asking for a donation.

Why is that?

There’s no reason to feel that fundraising is manipulating or shaking down donors. The fact is that giving is good. It’s good for the person receiving the generosity, naturally, and it’s just as good for the giver. Both benefit.

Christianity says so. The Bible says “whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Corinthians 9:6). (link)

Judaism says so. Helping the poor is an obligation in Judaism known as “tzedakah” in Hebrew. In tzedakah, the gifts that are given to others eventually return to the giver. (link)

Islam says so. Believers are entreated to be generous. The Koran says “And whatever you spend in good, it will be repaid to you in full, and you shall not be wronged.” (link)

Buddhism says so. Generosity is one of the three tenants of Buddhism, stressing that the giver should feel a sense of joy before, during, and after the act of giving. (link)

Atheism says so. In fact, as this report explains, even without the heavenly reward for charitable acts that most religions promise, atheists are still generous givers. They say, “We don’t need God to do good,” pointing out that, even without belief, giving is personally rewarding. (link)

With apologies to any faith or group unintentionally omitted here, it looks like there’s one thing that people of every stripe can agree on, and it’s the foundational idea, as old as humanity, that’s it’s good to give. And if it’s good to give, then it has to be at least as good to ask.

So there’s no reason to shy away from the ask, whether it’s in a direct mail letter, an email appeal, or face to face.

Ask freely, ask enthusiastically, ask honestly, ask boldly, ask early, and ask often. Will you get a “too much mail” donor complaint here and there? Maybe. But you can’t let that dictate what you do for the far greater number of donors who welcome the opportunity to help. The larger issue is that giving is good for donors, good for your nonprofit, and good for your nonprofit’s beneficiaries. It’s so good, in fact, that it’s just plain good. And how many things can you say that about?

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What’s your fundraising war story?

When things go wrong with a fundraising appeal, it can seem like the end when it’s happening to you. But really, sometimes the lessons you learn in the school of hard knocks are the best ones – the ones you need to learn.

In this guest post at GuideStar blog, here are three lessons I learned the hard way:

  • Why cleverness is never a good substitute for genuine creativity in fundraising appeals.
  • What happens to an appeal when group-think takes over.
  • How the messaging in an appeal can get overshadowed and what that does to response.

Take a look at the full post here for the details. Hey, we’ve all been there. But that doesn’t mean we have to stay there. With every appeal, we learn more, and that’s part of what makes fundraising so fascinating. So, what’s your fundraising war story? Let me know.

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3 must-haves for a strong January renewal appeal

Now that your year end appeal is out the door, it’s time to relax with a few weeks off. HA! Kidding! Actually, it’s time for your January renewal appeal to be in the works.

Your January renewal can be one of the strongest appeals of the year. Those donors who didn’t give to your year-end appeal will probably be ready to open their wallets in January.

In addition, after the hustle and bustle of the holidays, donors have a bit more time on their hands, so they’ll probably be more receptive to your ask. And, donors often work out their plans for giving in January, and they may be thinking they’ll start off the year with a big, fat, generous gift. You’ll want to be there for that.

So, here are three things to do so that your renewal generates good results:

  1. Use a membership card. Does anybody actually take the membership card from the mailing and put it in their wallet? Probably not. But that’s okay. The membership card is a symbolic thing, obviously. Something tangible. And especially when it has the donor’s name on it, it works. Probably for the same reason that those donor-personalized Certificates of Appreciation work.
  2. Give solid reasons to renew. The call to action is, “Renew your support,” and that should be peppered throughout the appeal. Because of that, it’s important to provide some strong reasons why your donors would want to renew their support. These reasons will be based around the impact of your donors’ gifts. For a cancer center, say, it could be something like, “Your gift will fuel the world-class research that’s saving lives.” Three or four strong reasons are what you need to drive home the urgency and the impact around donating.
  3. Acknowledge your donor’s importance. The opening of your letter is probably a good place to make this point, and you’ll want to be somewhat effusive in thanking your donor. Still, you don’t want to dwell on this for paragraph after paragraph. Tell your donors how wonderful and important they sincerely are, and then move on to donor impact.

It’ll be a whole new year soon, with new challenges and new opportunities for your donors to be involved with your mission. Your January renewal is how you can give them that chance.

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Here’s the point if you want to raise funds

Red_push_pinGeneralities are okay in fundraising. But that’s the problem – they’re just okay. They don’t work as well as specifics to get donors inspired and motivated to give.

Specifics – that’s the point in this post at Future Fundraising Now. In it, there’s a comparison between two calls to action. One is a generality: let’s end poverty. The other is specific: help pull a refugee to safety.

Chances are that the second one, the specific one, will do a lot better to engage donors and win their support. First of all, ending poverty seems to donors to be too big of a problem to solve. Any donor knows that his or her gift won’t stop poverty.

Second, it’s simply human nature to respond to specifics. Specifics sell, and the lesson goes all the way back to 1923, when legendary copywriter Claude Hopkins wrote: “Platitudes and generalities roll off the human understanding like water from a duck.” It was one of his immutable truths of marketing, and it’s as relevant as ever in fundraising.

It’s tempting to reach for generalities like “make a difference,” “save the world,” “change the world,” “Stand with us,” “give hope,” or “be a hero” when we’re thinking through an appeal. In some cases, generalities like these are okay in a conversational sense to relate to donors, but generalities will never be as effective as specifics when we’re developing a fundraising offer.

Especially for the offer, specifics can increase the credibility of the message, letting donors conjure up a more vivid mental image of the impact they can have when they give.

As Hopkins wrote: “People recognize a certain license in selling talk as they do poetry.” You won’t ruin your case for giving if a few generalities creep into the letter copy, but when it comes to the offer and the moment of truth – actually giving a gift – focus relentlessly on the specifics to get the best response from your fundraising.

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Worrying about your year-end appeal?

What you need is information. It’s here, and it’s free: The Straight-Talk Guide to Year-End Fundraising. Download it now, free, and discover:

  • What you’re missing if you don’t engage your donors at this critical time of year.
  • Mid-level donors – why you shouldn’t overlook this special and generous class of supporters.
  • The importance of Giving Tuesday for year-end fundraising.
  • How to maximize donor response to your year-end appeal.
  • The specific type of offer to present to your donors.
  • What works and what doesn’t when it comes to the messaging for your appeal.
  • Multichannel – how integrate direct mail, email, and social media.
  • And much more.

Make this year-end appeal your best ever. FREE Download: The Straight-Talk Guide to Year-End Fundraising.

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The right offer for your year-end appeal

Like all appeals, your year-end appeal should start with a solid offer.

The fundraising offer is a statement of what the donor receives in return for giving. It’s the deal, the transaction, the quid pro quo. It’s how the donor and nonprofit connect.

The offer should convey:

  • Why you’re writing to the donor.
  • What you want your donor to do.
  • Why the donation is a good deal.
  • Why the donor should give now.
  • What the donor gets out of it (benefits of giving).
  • Why your donor’s support matters.

While many of your other appeals during the year will be more relational, the year-end appeal is usually more transactional. So in your year-end appeal, your offer could be something like this:

Give your tax-deductible gift now before December 31 to help us end the year strong, begin the New Year in a better position, and sustain vital programs that fight hunger and poverty for people in need.

For most donors, this simple offer is compelling. There’s the deadline, the benefits to the donor, the specific action to take, and the reasons to do it. This is proven direct response that works.

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Not doing a year-end appeal? Uh-Oh

December is the biggest giving month. So, if you’re not doing a year-end appeal, you’re probably missing out. That’s because, according to nonprofit software firm Neon:

  • 31% of all annual giving takes place in December.
  • 12% of all giving happens in the last three days of the year.
  • 28% of nonprofits raise between 26% to 50% of their annual funds from their year-end ask.

These stats show that there’s a lot of donor activity going on in this time frame. But get this:

  • Two-thirds of the people who give do no research beforehand.

That’s even more surprising. It tells you that donors are primed for giving at year end. The money is there, and it’s just looking for a place to go where it can do some good. That place can and should be your nonprofit. That’s why the single most important thing you can do at year end is simply to ask.

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