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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What’s missing from your fundraising multiplier offer?

Is your multiplier offer working as well as it could be? What’s missing? Maybe something critical. Multiplier offers are pretty common in fundraising, and there’s a good reason for that.

Telling your donors that their gift will do two times, three times, or even ten times more good (or even more) is usually something they want to hear. And why not? Donors like getting a good deal.

But when those offers lack the essential element of credibility, you risk undercutting your own efforts. Because when you trumpet a multiplier like “Your gift multiplies 25 times!” without explaining how that might be possible, you’re making an unsubstantiated claim. See more here in my guest post on GuideStar blog.

Naturally, some donors might take your claim at face value, but it’s likely that many more will not. Why risk it? Here’s what to do so that your multiplier offer is as believable and as effective in raising funds as it could be. See more here.

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Year-end fundraising: easy way to get the messaging right

It’s true – now’s the time to start thinking about year-end fundraising. The end of the year is a crucial time for nonprofits, because most of the gifts that nonprofits receive come in during December. We’ve all seen that stats about how important year end is.

So, sure, you want to do a year end appeal. That’s a given. But what do you say to donors to get them to respond?

Luckily, the messaging for this appeal is pretty simple and straightforward. Basically, you want to emphasize:

  1. The urgency of the December 31 deadline.
  2. Tax deductibility. Even though most donors don’t itemize, tax deductibility is still a potential donor benefit, and should be part of your year-end appeal. You can even say on the reply form: Any gift that is postmarked before midnight on December 31 could be fully deductible on your taxes.
  3. Sustain the nonprofit’s programs and services.
  4. Help the nonprofit end the year strong.
  5. Help the nonprofit begin the New Year in a better position to pursue its mission.
  6. Do one more act of compassion before the year comes to a close.

The year-end appeal is essentially these message points.

You can include a story about someone who was helped, accomplishments that the donor helped make possible, or other donor-focused elements if you’d like, but often this isn’t necessary.

In most cases, keeping the appeal simple and direct, focusing on the deadline, is the most effective copy platform.



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