As a nonprofit professional, you know that the fundraising appeal is a critical part of any successful campaign. Yet in order to understand how to create a successful fundraising appeal, we must first understand what it consists of and how we can maximize its potential.
A fundraising appeal is the way in which your organization asks for financial support. This can be done electronically or through direct mail, which is generally more responsive. Fundraising appeals are usually sent during specific times throughout the year, such as the “year-end giving” or holiday season, but can also be sent out on a regular basis.
A few of the most common types of fundraising appeals are the general donation request, sponsorship request, in-kind donation request, and corporate donation request. Regardless of the type you choose, fundraising appeals can be sent in a variety of ways through different communication channels.
Now that you know what a fundraising appeal is and can recognize a few of the main types, let’s discuss ten powerful tips to improve your fundraising appeals:
- Incorporate a multichannel fundraising approach.
- Leverage data insights from a nonprofit CRM.
- Send strategic direct mail fundraising appeals.
- Segment your audience to create targeted fundraising appeals.
- Personalize your fundraising appeals to each recipient.
- Use storytelling strategies to explain the fundraising need.
- Position the donor as the hero of your story.
- Include specific asks in your fundraising appeals.
- Provide several easy ways for donors to give.
- Use high-quality materials for your fundraising appeals.
Ready to dive into each of these tips in greater detail and learn how to raise money for your cause in the most effective way possible? Let’s jump in.
1. Incorporate a multichannel fundraising approach.
The first step to improving your fundraising appeals is incorporating multiple channels within your campaign. We know that direct mail is one of the best channels to garner success with your fundraising campaign, but just think about the possibilities if combined with other channels!
A multichannel approach leads to more touchpoints overall. With more touchpoints comes more donations, because there are more channels through which your donors can give.
Furthermore, incorporating a multichannel approach will lead to higher levels of engagement among donors. After all, if your donors think about your organization more often, they will likely want to donate more frequently and more generously. We suggest emphasizing direct mail along with digital efforts like text, email, and social media to maximize your fundraising strategy.
2. Leverage data insights from a nonprofit CRM.
The second thing that can have a dramatic impact on your fundraising appeals is your CRM. A nonprofit CRM, or constituent relationship management system, allows you to effectively segment and personalize aspects of your fundraising letters. For example, when using a CRM, you can optimize aspects like donor profiles, communication skills, and fundraising data.
Then, you can include tidbits of information about the recipient sprinkled throughout your letters—such as their preferred name, engagement history, and more. This strategy allows your nonprofit to capitalize on heaps of unused data which can greatly improve your fundraising appeals, making them more in tune with your donors’ desires and motivations.
If you’re in the market for a nonprofit database or CRM, the GivingMail CRM is one of the best options for donor management software because it is built to accommodate nonprofit users who seek a more in-depth look at their data insights. Overall, utilizing your CRM is one of the most transformative methods for your appeals and your campaign as a whole—but you have to have the right tools to do so.
3. Send strategic direct mail fundraising appeals.
When you send a fundraising appeal, both you and the donor already know that you need financial support. But what if you implemented a more strategic approach so that you made the donor feel as if they were part of something bigger?
A strategic appeal is a powerful tool, especially when it is delivered with the most effective channel: direct mail. Even in 2020, direct mail is the single greatest source of donations for nonprofits in the U.S. After all, individual donations account for roughly 70% of total giving—-or approximately $309.66 billion. And guess what the single greatest tool for individual donations is? You guessed it: direct mail.
Seeing that direct mail is such a powerful medium, it makes the perfect channel for sending your strategic appeals and spearheading your fundraising efforts.
4. Segment your audience to create targeted fundraising appeals.
Segmenting your audience is an important part of improving your fundraising appeals. That’s because with segmentation comes more specific targeting. And with more specific targeting, you will likely have a higher conversion rate among your intended audience.
If you’re looking to segment your audience, here are five simple steps you can take to do so effectively:
- Utilize data from your CRM. We already covered the importance of a CRM to optimize your donor profiles, effective communication skills, and fundraising data. Now, by utilizing the data your CRM produces, you will be able to maximize your campaign’s productivity and conversion rates with more targeted appeals.
- Group donors by like characteristics. By organizing your donors into groups based on like characteristics, you will notice that each segmented group becomes its own community. This means that your donors are responding to your segmentation well and are conglomerating with similar individuals. You are on your way to successful segmentation!
- Make specific asks. The third step to segmenting your audience is making the correct ask. Now that you have divided up your audience into similarly interested communities, you have to make sure that each ask is catered towards the community’s interests and abilities.
- Piece together donor data. Once you’ve segmented your donors and drafted your direct mail appeal, you have to make sure that your script aligns with the specific donor’s interests. After sending out your first couple of asks, take a look and determine how your donors are responding to their specialized letters. If you need to, you can make adjustments at this stage for appeals going forward.
- Repeat. After you have completed steps 1-4, you should be on your way to successful audience segmentation and a great conversion rate with your fundraising appeals. Now, just repeat the process to continue segmenting your audience even further!
If you’re not sure how to begin sorting your contacts, we suggest looking at information such as their giving method, communication preference, engagement history, gift size, geographic location, and more.
5. Personalize your fundraising appeals to each recipient.
After segmentation, the next step to improving your fundraising appeals is personalization. It cannot be stressed enough how important personalization is within your fundraising appeals. Without personalization, your letter simply looks like another piece of junk mail, which your potential donor may simply throw away.
If you have successfully segmented your audience, personalization shouldn’t be too difficult of a task. Your personalization should largely be based around your segmentation efforts and data provided by your CRM. The difference here is that while donor segmentation targets unspecified characteristics and groups like-minded individuals, personalization directly references information about your donors and results in entirely unique appeals.
Some simple ways to personalize your fundraising appeals include addressing your recipients by name and acknowledging previous donations they have made. In doing this, you show the donor that you recognize their efforts to be a part of your cause and you care about them as an individual.
6. Use storytelling strategies to explain the fundraising need.
One way to create an even more personal and engaging ask is by incorporating storytelling strategies into your fundraising campaign. Stories appeal to the emotional quotient of your members by giving them more to grasp, rather than just a piece of mail. After all, people remember personal stories way more than they remember facts and figures.
There are many ways to tell a story that effectively appeals to your audience. One way to do so is simply by sharing the history of your nonprofit organization. Though some people may have heard this before, it’s a good idea to touch on things like the overall brand story, your personal influence behind the nonprofit, and constituent stories that showcase how transformative your organization is.
7. Position the donor as the hero of your story.
Though you want to communicate the actions your organization is taking to pursue your mission, be sure to frame it as if the donor is the real hero of the story. And they are, thanks to their contributions! In doing this, you should communicate that the supporter is the one making your organization’s goal a reality.
One effective way to make the donor feel like they are the hero of your story is by using more “you” language rather than “I” language. This means that you want to position the donor as the heroic character within the story in your ask. Encourage them to become a part of the change your organization is making.
In positioning the donor as the hero of your story, you motivate them to get further involved by financially supporting your organization. They don’t want to hear about what you are doing, they want to hear about what they are doing.
8. Include specific asks in your fundraising appeals.
Another way to improve your fundraising appeals is by including specific asks.
Essentially, you want to make sure you go beyond just asking your donors to give. When you word your fundraising appeals, you want to make sure that you call your donor to action, and specify what their donation will do. An example of this may be “a dollar a day feeds a child in need”. Then you’ll want to take it a step further by asking for gifts of a specific size, such as $25, $50, or even $100. The more the reader feels that they are the one actively achieving your goals through specific donation requests, the more likely they are to give their support.
Another way to specify your ask is by aligning it with a specific story. If you effectively communicate where their donation went, it will lead to your donor feeling more satisfied with their gift. Furthermore, it creates a tangible attachment for the donor, possibly leading to more donations in the future.
9. Provide several easy ways for donors to give.
Now that you have made all this effort to get your letter read, you have to make sure that your donation process is as easy as possible. There are three things you want to remain focused on for straightforward donations:
- Online giving: You must be sure that your online giving platform is clear and easy to use. If you know that a particular recipient prefers to make their donations online, be sure to include the URL for your handy online donation page so they can quickly and easily make their gift.
- Return envelopes for mail-in donations: You always want to include a prepaid, pre-addressed return envelope with any fundraising appeals you send. This is important because it streamlines the donation process for the donor and allows the recipient to make the donation without common obstructions like buying stamps or envelopes.
- Additional fundraising channels: Other channels like text-to-give can be beneficial because they allow donors to give from their own mobile device from anywhere they have cell phone service. Plus, text-to-give is an immensely simple process which can be convenient for donors and fundraisers alike.
By offering a whole host of possibilities for giving, you increase the likelihood that the recipients of your fundraising appeals will take the next step. Otherwise, if the process is too lengthy or otherwise complicated, you run the risk of willing donors losing interest before ever submitting their gifts.
10. Use high-quality materials for your fundraising appeals.
The final step to improving your fundraising appeals is using high-quality materials when you print, pack, and send them. The materials you use for your fundraising campaign are immensely important because they are a direct reflection of your nonprofit. If you choose to use low quality materials, your campaign may come off as unprofessional and cheap. Instead, using high quality materials is a simple solution to boost your professionalism and even your ROI.
And luckily, if your budget is tight, dedicated direct mail fundraising services can help you cut down on some of those costs. For example, with GivingMail’s direct mail packages, you can send high-quality fundraising appeals for a lower price than you could on your own.
All in all, there are many immensely important tools and strategies you can use to improve your fundraising appeals. By personalizing your letters effectively and implementing a nonprofit CRM, you get to reap benefits such as improving the donor experience, increasing conversion rates, and building long-term relationships with supporters. That’s why improving your fundraising appeals is a crucial part of a successful direct mail campaign.
If you’re interested in learning more about effective fundraising and software for nonprofits, be sure to check out our other resources:
- Marketing for Nonprofit Organizations: A Beginner’s Guide. If you’re looking to learn more about strategic nonprofit marketing to get the word out about your mission, this guide offers a great place to start.
- Nonprofit Database Software: The Complete FAQ Guide w/ Tips. The right nonprofit database software can make a huge difference in your personalization and segmentation efforts. Learn how to choose the right provider with this resource.
- Nonprofit Fundraising Guide [With FAQ, Strategies, & Tips]. Effective fundraising tools and strategies can help your team raise much-needed support for your organization. Find out how to do so with this article.