Your Year-End Fundraising Pep Talk

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For many people, the holidays are the most magical time of the year. Not for fundraisers. For fundraisers end of year can easily feel like the most stressful time of year, which is why they need an end of year fundraising pep talk.

As many as 28% of nonprofits raise as much as 50% of their entire budget just at year end. I’m not a professional gambler but I know high stakes fundraising!

Between writing multiple direct mail and email appeals, crafting the perfect #Giving Tuesday campaign, securing matches, segmenting appeals, coordinating all your posts, sending out holiday cards, and thanking donors there are lots of opportunities for mistakes.

(If sweat is already starting to pour down your forehead let’s just be thankful it won’t result in any hair dye streaks like Rudy Giuliani.)

I’m here with a pep talk to soothe your end-of-year fundraising anxieties!

1. Your donor does not read every fundraising email you send. So, send more.

Fact: the average nonprofit email open rate for nonprofits is 25%. That means 75% of your donors did NOT read your email. Look, it’s easy to feel like you are bombarding your donors with multiple emails. I’ve been there myself! Somewhere between your 3rd, 5th, or 11th email appeal you start asking yourself “…does everyone on my list want to throw rocks at me?” They don’t. If they do, they will unsubscribe and that’s okay too! Still sweating sending multiple e-appeals? Take this stat to heart, dear fundraiser: the average nonprofit sends 8 emails in December alone.

Your donor does not read every email you send (heck, they may not even receive every email you send). They only read the emails with subject lines that interest them and they only donate to the ones with asks that compel them.

Fact: the nonprofits that are raising 50% of their annual operating budget at end of year are sending more than a few emails!

2. Do not sweat the unsubscribes. They were never going to give anyway.

Fact: You will never make all the people happy all of the time. Accept this. Move on. You are not here to play small. (Neither am I. I get nasty zingers from time to time. You know what? I may be too much for some people. That’s okay. Those aren’t my people.)

Your goal is not to ‘offend as few people as possible.’ You have a big mission and people whose lives and well-being depend on your services. Get out there and give it all you’ve got!

One day, dear fundraiser you might even offend a donor. Don’t let this scare you. It shouldn’t. It is a scientific fact that donors who have a complaint or problem that you listen to, even if you cannot resolve it, are more loyal than donors who never had a complaint in the first place.

Dust yourself off and get back out there! The world needs you. You do not have time for haters.

3. Typos happen to all of us. Someday it will happen to you. That’s okay.

We are all human and we all make mistakes not matter how many times we proof something. How should you handle a typo once your appeal is already printed? If it is a personalization mistake or something that will offend the donor, then absolutely reprint. If it is minor, albeit unfortunate i.e. a repeated word, a misspelling etc., you may opt to mail it as-is and apologize to anyone who notices. A typo is not the end of the world. It shows your donors you are human.

4. You are not ‘talking down’ to donors by writing at a 6th grade reading level. You are being respectful, courteous, and kind.

I have a few pet peeves in fundraising and one of them is when people with no fundraising experience or formal training try to edit fundraising copy because they have a marketing background or a degree in English or ‘a fun idea’, etc. Let the fundraisers be fundraisers. Make reading your fundraising appeal easy, pleasurable and rewarding for your donor. Using a 6th grade reading level is the equivalent of speaking at an audible level and clearly annunciating your words.

5. You are not being manipulative or sappy to use emotion in your fundraising.

Fundraising is ultimately a quest for empathy. Using emotion in your fundraising is not manipulative, it is smart. Emotion is in fact the one thing, the only thing that ever works. Andrew Stanton who co-wrote Finding Nemo, Toy Story, Monsters Inc. and WALL-E (among other films) says the greatest story commandment of all time is three words: make me care.

Make. Me. Care. It is going to take an emotional story to draw me in and get me to care. The more I feel like the hero in the story who could change the outcome with my gift the more likely I am to give.

I’m hoping this year will your best year-end-ever.

Here’s to a safe and happy one! P.S. Wondering how your end of year fundraising appeal stacks up? Download Rachel’s free checklist to find out! 

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