Each month, Advancement Trends in the Life Community brings you a sample "Thank you note" to send to your supporters. December's letter is below:
Dear Brad & Angelina,
Whenever one aspires to a great work, there are naysayers. These are the people who can always find a reason why an idea will not work.
They pride themselves on being the first to have discovered the down side of a great endeavor. And if the idea by chance does not succeed, those golden words, "I told you so!" are first out of their mouths.
We have big dreams here. We want to see our community free from abortion. We want a city where every woman or couple facing an unplanned pregnancy chooses . . . Life.
There are naysayers out there, I'm sure. Some will think this goal is too audacious. Others will use words like "not feasible," or "unrealistic."
Your gift however, reminds me that many of us still believe the unthinkable can become reality and that the impossible is only impossible until someone accomplishes the task. And that with God, all things are possible.
Thank you for being a part of our team. Together, let's keep focusing on the impossible—until it is proven . . . Possible.
by Kirk Walden, Advancement Specialist
Click here for more of this month's Advancement Trends in the Life Community.
Click here to download this thank you letter as a word document.
Okay, so you've got just 10 minutes. Perhaps it's almost time for lunch. Or the day is almost over. Or you are between appointments. Maybe you are at an appointment in the waiting room. And there are those 10 minutes.
What are a few ways to use those few ticks of the clock to build a long-term development plan?
Run a reportIf you are in the office, use your donor software to run a quick report. Here are some ideas:
Jot a noteIf you have your Top 100 list, pull out a note card and write that quick note. In 10 minutes you might be able to write two!
Google, Bing . . .Yep, think of a financial partner you don't truly know. Find out more by Googling this person. You might find employment (Linked In), relationships (Facebook), where they live, interests and more. You may even find out why your ministry is important to them, who knows? As in any strong relationship, the more we know about a person, the stronger the relationship can be. Google is only a starting point, because relationships grow through conversations. But it is a 10-Minute Start.
Break down a major projectWhat is that major initiative the ministry is working toward? If there is one on the drawing table, write down the cost figures and break them down into bite-sized pieces. You might be creating an effective ask for a future appeal letter.
Ten minutes is not a lot of time, but if we use these increments of time to be more effective in our work we will not only free up space in our calendar, we will also build our long-term funding in the process.
While time is always at a premium in our work, thinking long-term will not only save time over the space of a year; it will also bring powerful results that can begin even now.
As we look at 2015, let's consider some ideas that will benefit our advancement plan for a long time to come.
Scour that database!Regularly searching for information in our donor software isn't just for the nerds and statisticians. It's vital for anyone who wants to see relationships and our bottom line improve.
Placing time in our regular schedule for research should be an integral part of our day in advancement. So what are we looking for?
Forgotten monthly donors—Check back a few years and find those who were giving monthly, but are no longer doing so. Some drop off because of moves or financial issues, but many either forget or lose interest because they feel forgotten. Our job is to remember!
Make a list of these friends, and if you know, jot down reasons why they stopped their monthly giving ("The Jones family moved"). Then, find those who might be motivated to give again, prioritize and plan ways to reconnect with these families, either by an appeal letter, a face to face visit—or whatever we need to do in order to begin rebuilding a relationship. Rebuilding doesn't need to start with an ask; it can be as simple as saying hello on the phone and telling our friend that we simply want to reconnect. Work on relationship, then the time to ask will be clearer.
One check and that's it—Go back 1-2 years and find those who wrote a check for $50 or more from an appeal letter or out of the blue. Consider an appeal letter to these friends, giving them a specific need and asking for a gift at least equal to, and perhaps 1.5 times the amount of this person's most recent gift.
A Google A Day—Might be the answer for getting to know those who give to us. I once Googled a major donor and found out that he split his time between the public sector (working for a University) and the private sector (researching energy issues). Gifts soared as he worked in the private sector, then flattened as he moved back into the university setting. We found that the best time to ask for major gifts was when he was working with major corporations—a valuable piece of information.
Many of those who can give major gifts can be found on Google, Bing, Yahoo or other search engines. This isn't stalking; it is vital research that can help us understand occupations, interests and more as we build good relationships. I even found one to be an author and we had the opportunity to talk publishing, information I never would have known without research. Knowing our people well builds relationships. The stronger the relationship, the more likely our friends will think of us when they give.
Click here for more of this month's Advancement Trends in the Life Community.
Commentary with Kirk
We're told that less is sometimes more and when it comes to a third fundraising event (or 4th or 5th), we need to think critically about its benefits and possible consequences to our long-term funding success.
So why not have a discussion? Let's look at questions and answers, and see if we can find some ground to stand on when we are questioned about whether a third event is always needed or necessary:
If we are going to build our budget, our third event is necessary. Look what we would lose if we eliminated this fundraiser!Generally this third event means we have either two events in the spring (January through May) or two in the fall (September through mid-November). Because events rarely occur in the summer or in the Christmas season, having two events in either spring or fall means that we are going to have a season where we are constantly in "event" mode.
This is not to say that we always eliminate a third event. We do however, need to look at this event in light of whether it is actually advancing our overall fundraising plan. Keep in mind: Every minute spent on a third event is time not spent on other revenue enhancing projects.
We already have a third event. If we are going to drop one of our events, how do we choose which one goes?To answer this question, let's throw out a principle. Unless an event is raising a significant percentage of your overall revenue, we must improve it or remove it. The word "significant" will have different meanings for different organizations. Here is a rough idea:
If we are not reaching these rough benchmarks, we either need to fix these events, or get rid of them as they are eating up one of our most vital resources: Time.
My guess is that if we look at each of our three events, we will find one that falls close to these numbers and needs a good look.
One caveat: If your banquet is falling below our suggested numbers, choose this one to fix. A fundraising dinner should be your strongest overall event; if it is not, there is great room to grow.
How do we replace the lost revenue?Most of our ministries miss opportunities in two areas: Monthly Support and Major Gifts. By shifting our focus toward building these two revenue streams, we might find a long-term, foundational increase in funding.
For instance, adding 25 monthly supporters over the course of a year (at about $40 per monthly gift) adds $1000 per month or $12,000 each year . . . And this will only increase in years to come as we add more supporters.
Consider major gifts, too. If we create a strong strategic plan (For the coming 3-5 years) and show a major supporter specific ways a major gift will be utilized, we will see these friends of the ministry respond.
What if we took the time we spend on that third event and met with one major supporter each month and asked for a gift of say, $5,000, what might happen? We are told that when we get to know someone who can make a major gift and truly build a relationship, when we make a reasonable, well-thought-out ask, the odds of a gift are more than 80%. At an average major gift of $5,000 then, twelve meetings would, in one year, likely mean some $50,000 in funding.
Different centers will see varying results, certainly. But perhaps we need to shift our thinking from "event" to "let's simply lay out a major vision and ask."
Should we always seek to eliminate a third event?No, we're not giving a hard and fast rule here. We do however, want to help us consider whether a third event is necessary to move toward a higher income figure.
On the other side of this, many centers have a third event that is totally unrelated to other events and in fact, reaches a different group of people. A golf event is a good example here. Some ministries are raising $50,000, $75,000 and more through golf events—completely separately from banquets, walks, baby bottle campaigns and other events.
The point? A third event is not automatically "bad," but we do need to make sure it is a significant fundraising avenue. And as we look at three events, let's make sure we do not lose focus on our other revenue streams.
A successful, effective advancement plan is not an overwhelming task; nor is it one that requires extraordinary fundraising skill.
Frankly, a winning plan for raising funds and advancing the ministry to a new tier is all about consistency and . . . Smart planning that is based on incremental improvement.
Here is what I mean:
Often we look at our finances and declare, "We need another event" or, "We must make major improvements in this area or that one in order to raise these funds!" On the idea of another event, in this issue we will blow that myth out of the water. If your ministry has two events, you have plenty. A third can actually be a detriment to a winning plan.
And when it comes to "major" gains in fundraising, most of the time we will find that it is step-by-step, small improvements that make the biggest difference to our overall success. This month, let's take a look at seemingly slight changes that can bring us powerful results, over time.
If we look long-term, we will find three avenues for success:
EvaluateTime spent evaluating our current fundraising plan is always time well spent. Give our events a second, and third, look. Let's make sure each event is a wise use of our time.
PlanSpace events, appeal letters and in-person asks so that we are not constantly in an overwhelmed rush. Back-to-back events burn out all of us. And running an event (such as a baby bottle campaign) nearly year-round never gives us a chance to breathe.
Focus on the long termImplement long term funding streams such as building monthly support and regularly meeting with those who can give major gifts, setting up your ministry for success long into the future.
For instance, did you know that adding just two $40/month donors each month will result in more than $55,000 in yearly funding over five years? That's success. Check out other articles in this month's issue that show us the way to a winning development plan, in good time.
By Kirk Walden, Advancement Specialist
The Year End Appeal can be one of our most successful development initiatives of the year. This is our opportunity to tell our story, unveil new plans, and invite those who are in a giving frame of mind to join us in launching a successful 2015.
Ministries and organizations that forgo this opportunity miss out not only on gifts that can make a major difference in the bottom line, but also lose a great chance to begin building relationships with those who receive our other mailings.
There are reasons some ministries decide not to send a Year-End Appeal, but any objections to this endeavor are easily answered.
With mailing expenses, the Year-End Appeal costs too muchLet’s say we send 1000 letters, a $490 investment in postage. With envelopes, paper and ink, let’s say we spend as much as 50 cents per package on color printing. That’s about $1.00 per mailing. That’s $1,000. If ten out of 1,000 recipients send us $100, we’ve already broken even. A well-written year-end appeal will not lose money.
No one reads appeal lettersWe can’t expect 50% response rates, because it is true that many people throw away appeal letters. Yet, every major non-profit sends appeal letters; they do so because they know this is a great way to reach new, and existing financial partners. In addition, many—especially the home-bound—only give to appeal letters.
We do appeal letters at other times of year. We do not want to overwhelm our donors with junk mail.Take it from someone who signs up for newsletters from pregnancy help organizations all over: While you keep close track of your appeals, your recipients do not.
Occasionally someone will send a ministry a note saying, “You send too much mail,” but we absolutely cannot base our mailings on one or two complaints. People are busy—they don’t have time to worry about our number of mailings.
Most ministries do not send enough appeal letters. The Year End Appeal is at the top of the list. This month, let’s make it happen.
Click here for more of this month's Advancement TLC.
Our Year-End Appeal is not simply a fundraising letter; it is our opportunity to impart our vision to the hundreds of people (thousands?) on our mailing list. This is why it is so important that we paint a large vision in this letter.
So consider, what do you want to accomplish in 2015? What is the big picture for your organization? What initiatives are new? Which initiatives are due for a major upgrade?
If there is nothing new or there are no major changes, consider emphasizing several key areas that are most effective in changing and saving lives.
When we ask, let’s think big
The simple truth is that our response rate on our Year-End Appeal is not going to be 20% or something like that. We all know many of our letters go in the trash. That’s certainly okay, and not a reason to fail to send out a letter.
What this means however, is that we need to think big.
This is not our “diapers and wipes” letter. In fact, let’s stop for a moment here and make it clear: We never need to use our newsletter, e-blast or any other communication to ask for layette items. When we do this, we are proclaiming to the world that we are a small organization, doing small things. Major donors see these asks and quickly decide, “They have no need for the gifts I am considering.”
Therefore, our asks need to be significant, with one exception. Sometimes when we are asking for a first or second gift in a specialized appeal letter, we might ask for a small amount ($15-$30) to gauge interest in our work.
In this letter it is certainly fine to let people know we would be thankful for any gift, but overall let’s be looking to help fund initiatives that require larger gifts.
Click here for more of this month's Advancement TLC.
Sometimes it is the small touches that make a big difference with our Year End Appeal. As we prepare to connect with our constituents at this crucial time, let’s consider these ideas:
1. Get rid of “Friends”We never want to start a letter with “Dear Pro-Life Friend” or simply, “Dear Friend.” Mail merge is simple; we need to make sure our recipients see a salutation addressed to them.
2. Consider a teaser on the outside of the envelope“200 more lives saved in 2015?” might catch the eye of a reader, and inside we can promote any of a number of initiatives: marketing, a fatherhood initiative, ultrasound. Give readers a reason to look inside, starting on the outside.
3. Stratify, stratify, stratifyWe can’t say it enough; we must be sending different letters to different people. While the main content of the letter will likely be the same, our ask should be different based on the person reading.
For instance, those who have never given might see a phrase such as, If you haven’t yet had an opportunity to give to First Choice, now would be a perfect time. The monthly supporter might read, Thank you for your continued support of First Choice. If you are considering a special gift to First Choice, now would be a perfect time. The difference is small, but someone giving each month wants to know you know that fact when they read your letter.
Stratifying our list, breaking down our mailing list based on support given, is vital in a letter like this. It can make the difference between an average return on our Appeal Letter, and a great return.
4. Something extra with your signatureIn appeal letters, the “P.S.” has gone the way of the Dodo. However, this doesn’t mean we can’t write a quick note at the bottom of our letter, just below our signature. Without writing the actual “PS,” we can jot down a short phrase such as “Thank you for reading” or, “I look forward to hearing from you.”
The better you know a recipient, the more personal the note can be. Anything at the bottom of the letter—in ink—tells the reader that you took a little extra time for them.
When they see your note, they may take a little extra time for you, too; the time to write a check.
For many ministries, Year End also means the end of the budget year. If we are trying to catch up on the budget at this time, we need to be careful in our appeal.
Our friends do not want to hear—every year—that we are behind. If we stay on this road year after year, our readers are going to question our stewardship.
Instead, let’s look at some items—which are likely in our budget—that might make for good Year-End Appeals.
Catching up on the budget
Didn’t we just say to be careful about this? We did, so here is how to be careful. Take the ministry that needs $15,000 in new funds in order to finish the year in the black.
Instead of talking about how behind we are in the budget, why not say something like this: “$25,000 for First Choice at Year End will not only finish our 2014 on a strong note, these funds will also launch us into a successful 2015, when we plan to . . .”
See the difference? The budget shortfall may be $15,000, but our letter is looking beyond ‘14 and into ‘15, with a positive outlook
Thinking of hiring a person to run your Fatherhood initiative? Factor in not only salary, but all materials, the cost of heating and cooling office space, etc. Roll it into one number and ask—not for simply a new person, but for a fully staffed Fatherhood Initiative.
Advertising and marketing is expensive; and some of our constituents don’t understand our need to advertise, making this ask more difficult. Phrasing matters. How about, “In order to best connect with those who need us, we must have a powerful online presence, and we need to be wherever they go. To make this connection through television, radio, the web and social media, we plan to invest $22,500 in 2015. The result, we believe, will be as many as 175 saved lives.”
Brick and mortar
No doubt, renovations and any building projects are effective asks. If we connect our renovations to reaching clients more effectively and saving more lives (and changing lives!), our odds of success grow.
If we are considering a conversion in the next year, there is every reason to be asking now. There is no reason to wait—year end is a great time to start the process.
We all know Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. And yes, how can we forget Cyber Monday, when all of the online retailers rally for our attention?
The newest of them all is Giving Tuesday (represented online as #GivingTuesday), begun in 2012 and now catching on across America and in many nations around the world.
Launched by groups from Google to the United Nations, #GivingTuesday is a day to remember charitable giving—and we don’t need to miss out. Here are several ideas to place your ministry at the forefront:
Make sure your online site is ready
Update your giving site to remind readers of #GivingTuesday. The actual date is December 2; this should be prominent as this day approaches.
Set a Goal
If your center has not emphasized #Giving Tuesday in its first two years, a modest goal would be sufficient. In the goal, show exactly where funds would be directed and connect the goal to client outcomes. This is not the time to ask for a computer or materials: “On Giving Tuesday, help us raise $2500. Every dollar given online on Giving Tuesday goes directly toward our Operation Ultrasound Initiative, paying for 25 ultrasounds that will bond women and men with their children, saving lives and changing the lives of moms and dads.”
Remind, remind, remind
In the weeks leading up to #GivingTuesday, remind your constituency through E-Blasts, Twitter, Facebook and other social media. Make sure it is announced wherever you can.
One Takeaway . . .
#GivingTuesday does not replace your Year End Appeal. There is room for both in your development plan.
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