A Tool from the Vault – Simple Solicitation Letters

July 15, 2015

The latest iteration of our Fundraising Toolbox series is an oldie but a goodie from the Jason Dick:

Giving should be simple. How long was your last solicitation letter? Half a page, two pages? How many stories did you tell? How many statistics from your organization did you quote? If you are like many non-profits today you probably said, “my letter was a page and a half, I told the donor all about my administrative rate, why they should give, how it will help them, what the program they are giving to is, what the program does, where their money went, where there money will go, how many people we serve, etc.” I think you are getting the point.

Information should be transparent and easy to find. You cannot say everything in one solicitation or thank you letter. Your letters should be under a page and describe what you are asking your donor for and why. Yes, there are other things you need to include, but do not dilute the point (or ask) of the letter with too much information.

A solicitation letter should have three things in it:
1. What is it that you are asking for (ie. cash gift of $20,000, auction item)? Be specific donors will often give no more than you ask from them. But will often give more than they intend to if you ask for a reasonable and specific amount (make sure to have your contact information and a response envelope).
2. Why you are asking for it? This is a really good place to summarize your mission or tell a story about your organization (make sure that your organizations name is in the letter).
3. Where the money will be going? This should be very obvious but sometimes it isn’t see my post, Broad and Transparent Giving.

How are your appeal letters working?  New techniques that are adding value?  Join the conversation at @infosmallchange #ascblog

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A Word on the Annual Report

July 8, 2015

Ok.  It’s the end of the year.  Dollars have been raised.  Dollars have been spent.  Objectives have been established.  Objectives (hopefully) have been met.  Now, it’s time to shot it from the mountaintops!  Or, more likely, get it down on paper and into an electronic or printed format that looks just awesome.  After all, it’s the Annual Report for crying out loud!

We give a lot weight to this tool, and sometimes, perhaps too much weight.  Accurate, compelling, and transparent reporting on our finances and key metrics every year is a unique privilege and responsibility that we must execute.  However, if we feel like it’s our one and only shot to impress, encourage, and inform our community of support we have missed many opportunities for more frequent touches.

That said, the Annual Report is an important deliverable and naturally we want to really exceed expectations.  To increase the likelihood of doing that, here are some key questions that must be addressed regardless of formatting decisions:

  1. How much income was generated and how was it spent?
  2. What were our key metrics of operational results and were they met?
  3. What is on the mind of our executive leadership?
  4. What impact has giving had on the mission?
  5. What challenges have we faced?
  6. What are the priorities as we move into the next fiscal year?

Again, it is really important that we are clear, creative, and compelling.  It’s also important that we provide this electronically even if we decide to also print it.  There are some amazing examples out there and if you are seeking inspiration and additional insight.  Check out these winners.

What Annual Reports have gotten your attention?  Join the conversation at @infosmallchange #ascblog


Nothing like a good report

July 7, 2015

As we continue our series on the tools a fundraiser should have, needs to refine, or better pick up if they haven’t in a while, it would be a grand miss to not highlight how effective crisp, consistent, and compelling reporting can be.

The agency that I have the privilege of serving with is relatively young, but we have made it a priority to focus on developing and communicating key metrics for operational results.  With great care and by leveraging feedback provided by members of our support community, we’ve come up with 10 specific measures to report how giving is impacting our mission.  We invited their feedback early on as it is critical for us to know what our supporters want to know, not to tell them what we think they need to hear.

Also, we’ve learned that while an Annual Report (more on this later this week) is a key component to the strategy, more frequent and less comprehensive updates can also be a great way to keep folks engaged.  We’ve taken to it quarterly.  We’ve taken to it in a way that is appealing from a graphic design perspective: 2 PPT slides treated and formatted into a PDF.  We’ve taken to sending it out via email with an invitation for additional feedback, and offering to get together for coffee to talk through it.  A great touch.

One additional discovery that has been helpful, is that many folks are game to share on social media the good things that are happening.  If we pull out 1 of our key metrics and post it on Facebook or tweet it on twitter, many of our supporters are quick to spread the word.  We all love to celebrate, and we all love to feel like we are part of something bigger than ourselves.  This is one easy way to do both.  If you haven’t already, give it a shot.

What reporting strategies, media, or formats are you using?  Join the conversation at @infosmallchange #ascblog