Déjà vu, year-end letter writing, and other challenges of the season

To fundraisers who’ve been on the job more than a couple of fundraising cycles, cranking out yet another year-end appeal letter can feel like déjà vu all over again. Keeping it fresh is a challenge and all the more so when the work of your organization flows on, as it should, in endless sameness.

Nonprofits are counseled to stick to the knitting, to grease the flywheel, to stay the course. But good luck crafting a letter that sizzles out of such single-focused steadiness. It’s a tough slog.

Like many of you, I’ve struggled to re-cast in letter form the ordinary as extra-ordinary — year after year, again and again. Face to face with a prospective donor and my words flow, but alone with my computer and I freeze. A one-day job morphs into a week of procrastination and misery. An old story that I love to tell with gusto any other time of the year suddenly sounds stale and uninspired.

If my confession rings familiar dear fundraising friend, the following resources from my in-box are for you.

Over-coming writer’s block: Fundraising powerhouse Blackbaud gives you free of charge a handy-dandy downloadable template for “building your year-end messaging.” The theme of the Blackbaud resource is “make the donor the hero.”

Boosting results: Next up in the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s webinar series is “Tips for Boosting Annual Giving.” A pair of top-notch fundraisers will share “proven approaches for attracting new donors, innovative tactics to connect with donors and inspire continued giving, and smart strategies to boost year-end revenue.” All for the early bird price of $79 ($99 after November 9).

Holding on to what who you’ve got: Donor attrition is the scourge of the nonprofit world, what with close to 50 percent of first-time donors falling away before making a second gift. The folks over at Network for Good offer three tried-and-true tips for retaining donors from year to year: thank donors properly; keep the conversation going; and, track progress.

Including SST in every letter: Story, statistics, and trust, that is. Listen in as Julie Capaldi, executive director at the United Way of Pickens County (SC), talks about the amazing growth in gifts and loyalty that her smallish United Way chapter has experienced by sticking with the three-part strategy. Capaldi’s the featured fundraiser in this week’s episode of the Nonprofit Story Tour.

One last word of advice, this from the comedy movie Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: “When you’re telling your stories, here’s an idea. Have a point. It makes it so much easier for the listener”/reader/donor. Having a point makes writing easier, too.

For more on end-of-year fundraising:

My one-word plan for year-end fundraising success

4 strategies for turning year-end stress into fundraising success

Don’t worry if you missed the year-end rush.


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