One thing that hasn’t changed in 2017 is that fundraisers still get defensive about the mix of print and electronic communications for fundraising success. It is really a rather pointless argument since for fundraisers, we need to “fish where the fish are biting,” or in this case, go where there are donors. And since donors are online and at the mailbox, that’s where we should be, too.

Being that print is more expensive and requires a longer lead time than online, it’s critical to jump on a year-end appeal letter right now if you haven’t already planned for it. It’s likely many of your donors who read your direct mail will go online to give, but your letter can drive traffic to the landing page and result in strong giving – if you remember these fundamentals.

  • Your audience is your donor, not your board of directors or your staff. Use language and visuals that make your donor fall in love all over again with your mission.
  • Creating a message that is “exactly the right length” is essential. So, what length is that? Long enough to motivate a gift, short enough to hold attention. In other words, the length of the letter is less important than the content of the copy.
  • Powerful images draw people into your message. Poor images – e.g., backsides of people instead of eye contact, blurry photos, photos that are pretty but don’t tell a story on their own – can disproportionately hurt response.
  • Urgency increases giving – so why give now (before midnight, December 31) instead of on January 1? Can you announce a new program you’ll launch in 2018 because of giving at year-end? Do you have more requests for help than you can meet?
  • A charitable deduction in the current year motivates – even though 70% of Americans don’t itemize. It may not be logical, but reminding people that a gift by December 31 will be receipted in 2017 creates a legitimate deadline that can boost response.
  • Mail delivery is unpredictable, especially if you use preferred rates for nonprofit organizations. While there were other factors at play, one nonprofit that mailed in early December in 2016 compared to mid-December in 2015 raised more than twice as much when mailing earlier. Expect the worst when it comes to mail delivery and make sure you give your supporters enough time to respond.
  • Ease of response is critical. Create a unique website donation landing page, provide a reply slip and reply envelope, make your phone number prominent and have a link on your home page that supports the look and message of the letter with a link to go to the online giving page.
  • Follow up your mailed appeal with an eAppeal that reminds the donor about the opportunity. Donors are busy, especially at year-end. Your job is to interrupt them in such a way that it inspires them to respond with a donation.

What you do today will help you make the most of year-end fundraising!