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Year-End Giving: How to inspire your donors

by Claire Horlings

We’re nearing the end of the year and you’re likely preparing to kick off your year-end giving campaign by writing an appeal letter to donors. If you’re wondering how to make your letter stand out from the crowd and get results, here are a few tips.  

Earn Donor Attention

Create a 6 –7-word theme that serves as a banner across the top of the letter. This theme can be carried throughout your campaign, including email, social media and even your outer mailing and donation envelopes. Use action verbs and personal pronouns like you. Here are some examples: 

  • Ignite Hope and Healing This Season 
  • Because of You, Lives Were Transformed 
  • They Had No Voice Until You Cared 

Next, personalize the salutation and insert the donor/prospect’s first name. This shows you know who your donors are. No one wants to receive a letter generically addressed as “Dear Friend.” Begin the letter with an expression of gratitude for what your donors have helped make possible this past year or more.  

  • Include at least one story of impact – highlight how a life was transformed and include a direct quote from that individual, if possible. It’s the power of a story, not statistics or a laundry list of everything your nonprofit accomplished in the past year. Remember, you want to inspire your donor to continue to support your work.   
  • Use at least a 12–14-point text and an easy- to-read font like Arial or Calibri. Keep in mind that some donors wear reading glasses, so a larger font is easier on the eyes.   

Call to Action

Segment your donors according to their annual giving and use language that creates a call to action.  Compile a list of your donors and their last annual gift amount. Decide what amount you want to ask for- list their last gift amount in the letter and then invite them to increase it.  If you include return donation envelopes with your letters, print a suggested next ask amount range on the envelopes to correspond with that donor segment.      

Example: Thank you for your last gift of $100. Please consider increasing your gift to $150 this year. (Donation envelope:  $100   $150   $200). If you have asked some of your donors to provide matching gifts, let donors know that their gift will be doubled, etc. up to x amount. This is a great way to get donors excited about your campaign. Remember, a specific call to action at the end of the letter or email is important.

Keep it short!

People have short attention spans and most donors skim letters and emails. If you’re mailing a letter, limit it to just one page. On average, donors take about 10 seconds or less to skim an appeal letter and decide whether or not to give. For emails, limit the email to just a couple of paragraphs. But nothing is more important than the email subject line. After all, the subject line is what gets people to open your email. Intrigue the donor with a unique subject line. Examples include:

  •  “Your donation saved a litter of puppies” 
  •  “Help us protect children in need” 
  • [Name of donor], want to help [your organization name] again this year?

Recent data shows that people are highly motivated to give in these last few weeks of 2021 and with the right engaging and appealing letter or email and subject line, you should be able to boost your fundraising revenue before the new year.