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Fundraising: Double -- Triple -- The Response Rates to Your Appeal Letters! Learn How Now!

Updated: Apr 24

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Notify First! Fundraising: Double Your Response Rates! The tactic is simple . . . to increase response rates to your appeals, NOTIFY THE DONOR FIRST! What Do You Need to do? Make a PHONE CALL to your donors announcing your year-end campaign, and that they will soon be receiving letter in the mail about the campaign. If you apply the tactics below to current donors precisely as stated, response rates can skyrocket to 70% or more. Seriously. What About Email Appeals? This also works with email appeals. Simply call and announce that you'll be sending email soon about the campaign. Why does Notification Work? When you call first, you’re priming donors with a “personal” announcement that they will be receiving something from YOU. Making it personal means the donor will feel more obligated to respond. Why? People don’t like to blow off other people when asked a favor. Increase The Odds Even More! 1. OPEN ME! If you send an appeal letter as part of your campaign, write “Open Me! Tom and Sara” on the outside of the envelope. I always add a couple of fun holiday stickers on the envelope as well. 2. PERSONALIZE. Write a personalized comment on the appeal letter you're sending. "Jenny, so glad to hear Meg will be home from dental school to celebrate the holidays with you and your family." Always include a PS: in your letter: "PS: Read the enclosed brochure and make a gift to ignite a child's chance for a brighter future." 3. PERSONALIZE MORE! Write a short, personalized note on the response card you're including with the letter, “Thank YOU for making a difference,” or “Last year, you gave $500. This year, please consider a gift of . . . (and then circle the amount you want them to give, or write it) Thank you!” 4. REPEAT! Whether you're sending letters or emails, or a combination of each, repeat this entire process, yes the ENTIRE process, 3 times. For example, send two letters and one email. Or, send one letter or three emails. What is MOST important is that, for each iteration, CALL FIRST and tell the donor to expect a letter or email about the campaign. If you're getting close to your goal, say within $50,000 of a $400,000 goal, let them know that when you leave a voicemail or talk with them. Toward the very end of your campaign, say on December 22, 23, 27, 28, 29, or 30th, make your last (third) notification call to your biggest donors one last time if they haven’t yet made a gift. Announce the campaign again and how close you are to your goal, and how much it would mean to the kids (beneficiaries) if they made a gift in the next day or two. Other Details! Now, if you have a large list of donors, say 2,000, you can’t expect to call all of them. Therefore, segment your list. Call your top 400 (top tier) donors and send out email notifications to the rest. The more calls you can make, the better. Call. Call. CALL! Making notification calls is a perfect job for board members. It’s quick and they don’t have to freak out feeling they have to make a specific dollar ask, because they aren’t; they are simply announcing your campaign. Staff, volunteers, and family members of beneficiaries can help too. In this case, you may want to do some coaching. Just have a hot chocolate night, give everyone some scripts, and then have them practice by making calls to others in the room. Making 5 practice calls is all you’ll need to prime everyone. Then, before they leave, give everyone a list of names to call. The most confident people should get the biggest donors. Note: The call scripts should be less than 15 seconds!!!! What if the Donor Answers When You Call? If the donor answers your call, sound friendly and upbeat, and read your 15-second script, and let them know they’ll be receiving a letter or email in the few days. But be prepared, they may commit to a gift on the spot. If this happens, refer them to your website, or better yet, if you must, write down their credit card information and process it after the call. Or, just take their “pledge” and tell them that the ED or someone from the development team will be in touch to take their payment. What if No One Answers? If you call and no one answers, no problem. Leave a friendly, upbeat 15-second voicemail thanking the donor (for being a donor) and that they should expect a letter about the campaign in the mail soon. What About Email Notifications? If you’re sending email notifications to announce your campaign, ALWAYS change the subject line, photo, and a couple lines of text – but you do NOT have rebuild the entire email each time you send one. And keep all your emails SHORT. Did I say SHORT. Yes, SHORT. Keep them short, to the point, with just the necessary components of the campaign. This is NOT the time to SELL them on your mission; this is the time to carefully construct a powerful and meaningful, ask. Remove Donors from Your List Once a donor makes a gift, whether you sent them a letter or email, be sure to remove them from call and email lists so they don’t get contacted or emailed again.

Are you Thinking of Strategic Planning, or Hosting a Board Development Retreat in the Coming Year? Then, go with the best! Click on the links below and find out why First Things First retreats will exceed your expectations at a price you can afford, and why Tom is rated America's Best Retreat Facilitator. Or, simply email and say "Take us Higher!" in the subject line and we'll set up a meet-and-greet call to answer your questions. For details about a retreat day, click here:

Tom Iselin

“America’s Best Board Retreat and Strategic Planning Facilitator”

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