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  • Writer's pictureKelsey Kuske

Gearing up for your Annual Appeal: 5 Must-Use Strategies

When it comes to your organization’s fundraising campaigns, raising money for your annual fund can sometimes seem “out of sight out of mind” until the end of the year comes around. With many fundraising efforts throughout the year, it can be challenging to identify how your annual appeal should fit into your development calendar. For many organizations, an annual appeal is essential to help cover the necessary operating costs. Leading an annual appeal does not need to be difficult, especially if you plan appropriately.

Before we review how to execute your appeal best, we should address what constitutes a great appeal.

Appeals are direct communication pieces to your prospects and donors via print or electronic delivery. They contain compelling content and create exposure for your organization by educating your audience on past, current, and future efforts. These solicitations generate awareness of your mission, build relationships, and increase donations. The most common appeals are Mid-year, Giving Tuesday, and Season of Giving.

Mid-year: Typically distributed in June or July, the Mid-year appeal is best sent via direct mail and electronic delivery. Sending out an appeal Mid-year will not affect planned year-end efforts.

Giving Tuesday: Giving Tuesday, the global day of giving, is digitally driven. Every year on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, nonprofits around the world develop campaigns to capitalize on this philanthropic day, often with strong messaging on social media.

Season of Giving: Promote your end-of-year throughout December, electronically and through direct mail. While there are many ways you can go about shaping your appeal, highlighting an individual situation or story will have the most impact by enhancing your donors' understanding and increasing their connection to your cause. Once messaging is complete and you’ve crafted a story, ensure the “ask” is delivered in a simple, informative, connective, and uplifting way.

Do you want to learn how you can use your annual appeals to better steward your donors and translate that connection into funds for your annual appeal? Use the following five strategies to gear up for your annual appeal:

1. Make it personal: Personalization is key to making your donors feel important and connected to your cause. Simple additions such as the donor’s first name, last gift date, and the amount of their previous gift can have a lasting impact. Be sure to include information about the impact the donor will have for your organization. Donors like to feel connected and valuable to causes in which they believe. Focusing on donor impact creates ownership and connection, which ultimately increases giving. Explain how donor support is critical to your mission and highlight donor impact in your story.

2. Use compelling imagery to tell your story: People naturally look at pictures before reading text. Capitalize on this by using images to tell your story and enhance your donors’ emotions. Select photos that evoke feelings of empathy and joy to develop drive and energy to support your cause. Remember that people give to people, not causes! Ensure you are expressing the why of your mission through these images. This will allow you to differentiate between telling your readers that you have fundraising needs and making them understand why meeting those needs is essential.

3. Think about delivery and execution: Ensure the message is vibrant and concise. Use simple verbiage and keep statistics to a minimum. Statistics are great motivators but can also alter the voice of an appeal. Readers need to easily understand the message to connect to it. A confused donor will disregard an appeal, resulting in no gift. Additionally, you want to ensure you focus on your organization’s mission. Your organization’s mission and objectives should be clear to the reader. If the design allows, directly state your mission on the appeal. Furthermore, appeals are endorsed by many people in many ways. Leadership, staff, board members, and volunteers must work collectively to drive the effort. In addition to face-to-face connections, appeals can be sent via email, promoted on social media, introduced by phone, and mailed directly to donors.

4. Convenience is vital: Accessibility is critical; make it easy for your donors to give. Your website should reflect your current appeal, and your donation button or page must be highly visible. Include options, such as recurring gifts, so donors have the choice to give again automatically. Direct mail appeals should include a return envelope. Do not underestimate the power and convenience of social media! It’s no secret that social media is incredibly effective. Don’t forget to include a link that leads directly to your donation page. Donors have little patience, and if it’s difficult to donate, your organization will miss out on funds. You may even want to consider using text-to-donate keywords in your appeal letters, online and paper. This is a quick and easy way for people to give while it is fresh in their minds.

5. Clearly define annual giving needs: Engage your donors by showing and telling them how your organization is utilizing their money. Add increments to the end of your appeal because dollar amounts connected to a tangible impact guide understanding of what donors can influence. Keep amounts and explanations simple and use examples. Be sure to emphasize the importance of annual fund giving. If your donors don’t understand the importance of giving to your organization’s annual fund as opposed to another campaign of yours, they are less likely to give. Clearly identify and outline how donating to your annual fund fits in with your organization’s mission.

Your annual appeal can be a primary source of funding for special projects or annual operating support. Appeals express your mission and lead to greater awareness in your community.

Make your upcoming appeal the best yet by implementing these five key strategies!

1. The Three Major Components of a Successful Annual Giving Campaign By Tanya Fitzgerald on Mar 14, 2017

2. 5 Elements of an Effective Annual Fund Plan. Posted on 06/10/2018, by Annual Giving Network, LLC

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