Year-end? Yes. I know it’s summer as I write. But it’s not too early to think about how you’ll make the most of your year-end campaign this year.
Whatever your organization’s fiscal year is, the time from late November to the end of the calendar year is still year-end to your donors. And if you want to make an impression – and persuade people to make gifts – begin now.
Take a good look back
Your past campaigns have something to tell you. This is one more reason that keeping good data is critical. You should be able to run reports on past appeals. Look closely at what performed well and what didn’t.
- What did you ask people to do?
- How many people responded?
- What was the average gift?
- What were the external factors that might have influenced your results?
Your donors may be voting with their dollars for what matters most to them. Pay attention. But you don’t need to reorganize your mission to suit! You may need to rethink your messaging, though.
- How would your organization rate this year on what it’s supposed to do?
- Did you accomplish what you said you would? Were you unable to – and if so, why?
- What exciting things happened this year that changed your outcomes? What changed in the world to affect them?
Take stock of your stories
It’s a great idea to create two things: a story bank and a photo bank. Both are crucial for great donor communications. If you don’t have much in either bank, start now. (Also read this from my friend Julie Cooper and get your donor impact story template!)
Go talk to the program staff. What interesting things happened this year so far? What’s the hardest thing for them now?
Talk to the people your organization works for or with. Find out what challenges they’re facing that your organization can help with. Set up interviews with likely subjects.
I promise, gathering this information now will make life much easier a few months from now!
If you don’t have good photos, go get some, even if you’re not a great photographer. With our phones and some practice, you can get some decent shots. But if you have a particular story in mind for your year-end campaign, it might be worth the money to pay a professional photographer.
One or two really impactful images can make your whole year-end campaign. Images speak faster and with more emotion than even our words. They matter – a lot!
Plan your campaign
If your year-end campaign has been a simple appeal mailed in December, consider expanding your horizons. You can often do this without doubling your work. Become a repurpose artist!
Here’s what I mean. Assume you’ll write a direct mail appeal. Great. This will be your anchor document.
But then use the messaging to create an email campaign as well. Emails will be shorter than your mail piece. So break the mail piece up and feed it to your audience in smaller bits. Aim for some emails both before and after the mail piece lands. Some to prime your donors, some to remind them.
But don’t stop there! Social media can also be a great place to repurpose your messages. You can invest a little money in Facebook to test your messaging, too. You may see quickly there what works and doesn’t – and use that to update your email and mail campaigns.
This might sound like a lot. But it’s really more about organization than work. Focus on the anchor piece. Then just use it, as much as you can, throughout the campaign. Don’t let good messaging go to waste!
Think now about what help you’ll need
Even if you’re a one-person development team, you can do this. But maybe not all alone. Don’t be afraid to be clear how much the success of this campaign affects everyone in the organization. Let people help!
And decide what outside help you’ll use. I’d start with a great printer and mail house. Unless you have fewer than 500 donors, printing your letters in-house and working through bulk rate mailings is a waste of your skill and time.
The quality and deliverability of the mail pieces will matter as well. You may be small but mighty, but you don’t want to look sloppy.
Make your case for spending more to make more money
If you’re a fiercely independent “I can do it all” kind of person, congratulations! But if your organization has decided you can do it all and you’re not so sure, make your case.
If you have to spend money to raise much more money… that’s a win. And investing in your organization’s income stream – by attracting more new donors and/or keeping more current donors – is always smart.
You are worth the investment.
Data, data, data
Before you’re knee-deep in year-end, clean up your data. You can write a moving appeal, get it front of all the people you intend, and still lose because you addressed Mary as Morty.
When you’re confident in your data, you can use it to your benefit. For instance, instead of a generic “please give”, you can target donors according to their history. Do you really want to ask a $500 donor to give $25 because you’re depending on a generic ask string? No, no you do not.
Clean up now!
Start the year-end work now
Your November self will thank you!