7 Great Year-End Appeal Letter Tips [With Free Samples!]
As the leaves change color and the days get shorter, there should only be one thing on fundraisers’ minds — year-end giving, of course. While it would be nice if this were the case, we know that the world doesn’t stop to allow nonprofit teams like yours to prioritize year-end fundraising. But no matter how busy you are, there’s always time to come up with a year-end appeal letter strategy that nurtures supporter relationships and helps you bring in those valuable end-of-year contributions.
If you’re not sure how to tackle year-end appeal letters in the most effective way, fear not! In this post, we’ll provide 7 unstoppable strategies for crafting effective appeals that make year-end fundraising a breeze:
- Create a year-end-appeal timeline.
- Present your year-end appeal letter through the right channel.
- Personalize every aspect of your year-end appeal.
- Share your success stories in your end-of-year appeal.
- Format your appeal letter strategically.
- Follow up after your year-end appeal letter.
- Reference our free year-end appeal letter sample.
Keep in mind that like any nonprofit effort, the right software will facilitate a stress-free year-end appeal experience. Check out Giveffect’s marketing and communication tools to see how our solution can boost your fundraising strategy during the end-of-year giving season!
Now without further ado, let’s jump to the tips so you can start writing your appeal letters.
1. Create a year-end appeal timeline.
If you’re scrambling to develop your appeal letter plan in the middle of December, chances are that you won’t have much luck winning over all of the supporters in your database (much less potential new prospects).
Instead of throwing your fundraising appeals together at the last minute, why not rewind a few months? Get together with your team midway through the year to begin plotting your end-of-year strategy, including creating a clear timeline that can serve as your roadmap for the last months of the year.
We’ve put together a sample timeline that you can use as a starting point, but depending on the size of your staff, the number of appeals you’ll be sending, and your nonprofit’s overall fundraising strategy, you may need to allow more or less time to get everything done.
As you’re creating your calendar, you’ll also want to check off the following steps:
- Delegate key responsibilities. Who will be writing the direct mail, email, and social media appeals? Who will ensure all of the direct mail is sent and received? Will you design the appeals in-house or work with an outside designer?
- Establish smart goals. Using reports from previous years as a baseline, how much money do you hope to bring in through your year-end appeal letters? How much money do you need to raise to cover operational expenses?
- Determine how technology fits in. Is your email marketing software integrated with your nonprofit CRM? What about your direct mail solution? (Hint: the more connected these systems are, the easier it will be to automate tasks and limit manual data entry!)
No matter what, make sure you clearly document your timeline and inform all relevant team members about the plan. Trust us: when everyone is on the same page from square one, you’ll mitigate a significant amount of confusion and stress once the end-of-year season ramps up!
Takeaway: Your team should be thinking about how you’ll manage year-end fundraising appeals well before the holiday season. Create a practical timeline for your responsibilities so that no important tasks slip through the cracks later on in the process.
2. Present your year-end appeal letter through the right channel.
These days, supporters have pretty much infinite options for how they want to contribute to your organization, and you’ve got equally endless ways to appeal to them.
We won’t be able to touch on every single creative year-end appeal approach out there in this post, but we can provide some real-world advice for sending fundraising letters through two distinct channels: direct mail appeals and online appeals. Let’s explore each!
Direct Mail Appeal Letters
Traditional and time-tested, end-of-year direct mail appeal letters are relied upon by many nonprofits for a reason: they work!
The major downside of direct mail is that sending a letter or postcard through the mail costs money. For smaller nonprofits with a less flexible budget, it might be easy to write off this marketing channel in favor of free-to-cheap online methods.
However, all nonprofits can — and should — utilize direct mail appeal letters. Just follow these tips:
- Focus on existing donors, particularly small-to-midsized donors who’ve previously given through mail.
- Be deliberate with your design, from the color and size of your envelope to the content itself, by using direct mail software that gives you plenty of customization options.
- Make the donation easy by including a pre-addressed reply envelope and the URL to your online giving form. Don’t forget: when you use integrated direct mail marketing software, you can track appeal responses in your CRM automatically.
Direct mail can be the most compelling type of appeal you send, so don’t forget to make the most of this channel!
Online Appeal Letters
Though less personal than a letter in the mail, a year-end appeal sent through the internet is virtually free for your nonprofit and accessible for almost all of your supporters.
You can take advantage of the ubiquity and cost-effectiveness of online marketing in a few ways:
- Follow up your direct mail letter with an email appeal. If you haven’t heard back after your initial solicitation letter, reach out again with an email appeal.
- Maintain a diverse social media presence. Link to your year-end giving page on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram all throughout the holiday season, especially capitalizing on key giving days like #GivingTuesday.
- Open up a variety of online giving methods. As you promote year-end giving, make sure you’re offering plenty of convenient ways to donate, from your online donation form to corporate giving, text-to-give campaigns, or a crowdfunding page.
Another perk of online appeals? You can use them to reach a wide audience of prospective donors without spending a dime. To do that, make sure your online content is shareable and visually engaging. Then, encourage supporters to forward your message to their peers!
Takeaway: By pairing your online year-end appeal strategy with a stellar direct mail campaign, you’ll maximize the amount you’re able to bring in. Make sure your marketing software allows you to explore both avenues for best results and the most seamless experience!
3. Personalize every aspect of your year-end fundraising appeal.
There’s nothing worse than a generic “To Whom It May Concern” letter, especially if that one-size-fits-all letter is asking the recipient for money!
If your year-end appeal letters are lacking a personal touch, start by drawing on the information stored in your nonprofit CRM.
You should already know a thing or two about your donors based on the forms they’ve filled out, the conversations you’ve shared, and the giving and engagement history they have with your organization. If you’re keeping track of that information effectively in your database, you already have a great jumping-off point for a successful year-end appeal!
Here are a few suggestions for areas where personalization pays off:
- Greeting. Always address a supporter by their preferred first name or title. For most donors, their first name is better than “Mr/Ms,” but major donors or individuals with prominent roles in the community may prefer a more formal salutation.
- Ask amount. Reference an individual’s giving history to determine the right solicitation amount. To maximize the ask, you can offer suggested giving levels that are in line with their typical donation amount but encourage them to upgrade slightly.
- Content. Personalizing your letters means more than just filling in the blanks for a name and donation amount. You should craft completely different appeals that relate to specific segments of your list, from major donors to lapsed donors and even non-donors.
If possible, you should also reference the recipient’s previous involvement explicitly within the copy of your letter. For example: “Your $500 gift last year provided school supplies for five underprivileged children.” Or, “Your hard work volunteering on our fundraising event committee ensured our auction went off without a hitch.”
For direct mail appeal letters, you can take it a step further by adding a handwritten P.S. from a notable member of your team, such as a board member.
Keeping all of this data on file in an integrated system will allow you to use donor, volunteer, or member data to inform your year-end marketing strategy. You’ll be able to stay on top of your end-of-year solicitations without bouncing back and forth between disparate systems.
Takeaway: Reading year-end appeal letter shouldn’t feel canned. Use the information in your nonprofit software to guarantee that each letter is as unique as the supporter who receives it.
4. Share your success stories in your end-of-year appeal.
A major way to distinguish your year-end appeal letters from the other appeals you send is by showcasing the effectiveness of your fundraising efforts throughout the year.
Think of it as your case for support as you appeal to donors — what has your organization done over the past year to warrant their contributions this time around?
The good news is that this doesn’t have to be a source of stress for your fundraising team; instead, you should view this as an opportunity to highlight key stories of your nonprofit’s success in the communities you serve!
We’ve got some tips for showing donors how much you’ve accomplished in the past year in a compelling way:
- Focus on the donor. It may seem counterintuitive (after all, you are trying to illustrate what your nonprofit has achieved), but hear us out: you want to remind your supporters why their donations are valued. Illustrate what their support has accomplished, and remind them that your organization can’t make an impact alone.
- Use visual elements. High-quality photos (and, in online appeals, videos) can go a long way to put faces to the individuals, places, or animals that you support. Plus, a photo or graphic can break up the text and catch a reader’s eye, drawing them toward your call-to-action.
- Include statistics sparingly. A powerful statistic showcasing the need for your organization or the effects you’ve already had can do a lot to motivate supporters. However, your readers will almost definitely gloss over a wall of numbers, so make sure you’re framing stats in an appealing way and only using them when necessary.
In a way, your year-end donation request letter is a way for you to remind donors why they’ve supported your mission in the past and to get them excited about contributing once again.
The more you can do to illustrate the powerful things your supporters have helped you do, the more likely they are to make a donation and share these stories with friends and family. After all, who wouldn’t want to broadcast such amazing stories that they’ve made possible?
Takeaway: Your year-end appeal letter is your chance to reiterate how vital your donors’ contributions are by illustrating the impact they’ve already had. Tell the story of what your fundraising campaign has already accomplished and your supporters are sure to give again.
5. Format your appeal letter strategically.
Now that you’ve got some idea of the content you’ll be including in your year-end fundraising appeal, let’s dive into some specific tips for laying out your letter in a way that leads to best results.
There’s no such thing as magic formatting, but there are some proven techniques you can utilize to get your appeal letter in optimum shape:
- Start with “thank you.” The first paragraph of your appeal should include a thank-you message to your donors. They’ve already done a lot for your organization, so you don’t want to launch into a request without acknowledging their existing contributions.
- Keep it conversational. Don’t force donors to read a complicated dissertation on why your nonprofit deserves their funding. Invite them to play a part in your organization by using a warm, friendly tone and simple, to-the-point language.
- Be brief. Email appeals should be shorter than direct mailings, but all of your appeal letters should be easily readable in one sitting. Jump into the meat of your story quickly so that donors don’t get lost before they make it to the call-to-action: the ask.
- Write for scanners, not readers. You’d like your recipients to soak up every thoughtfully crafted line in your appeal letter, but realistically, many will only scan it. Use short paragraphs, images, and bold or italic lettering to keep your appeal scannable.
- Include a clear call-to-action. Finally, you need to ensure your formatting facilitates the point of your letter — a donation! Reiterate this call to action throughout the letter in clear language, and explicitly reiterate your request in your closing.
On top of those important tactics, you’ll also want to spend some time looking at the draft of your letter with your audience in mind.
Show a printed copy of your direct mail appeal to a board member or staff member — do they have issues reading the font? Do they get distracted halfway through? Do the images make sense to them at first glance?
Takeaway: Format your year-end appeal letter in a way that draws readers in. The easier it is for readers to get to the message of your letter, the more likely they are to follow through with a donation!
6. Follow up after your year-end appeal letter.
The end-of-year season is a busy time for your nonprofit, but it’s an equally busy time for your supporters. Don’t let them slip away if they don’t reply to your initial solicitation letter!
Using integrated marketing and fundraising software can help you track where your appeal letters are in transit and whether your recipients have made their gifts yet. (In fact, some software can even automate the data entry process so that all year-end transactions are stored instantly in a supporter’s profile.)
When you know where your donors are in the year-end giving process, you can better tailor your follow-up efforts, which might include:
- Additional solicitations. If your recipient hasn’t replied to your first appeal, consider following up with an email, direct mailing, or a phone call. Time your first message early enough in the season that you have time to follow up before the year’s end.
- Matching gift information. Show your contributors how their gifts can go twice as far through corporate philanthropy programs. Follow up with all donors or segment your list based on employer information to send the most detailed matching gift information.
- Thank-you notes. Perhaps the most crucial follow-up you’ll send is the thank-you message! Depending on the gift size, you may send an email or personal note in the mail, but either way, send these communications as quickly as possible following the gift.
Again, when you have software that automates many of your important communication tasks, you won’t have to worry about manually sending follow-up messages to each supporter in your database.
And when all of your nonprofit systems work together, all of your donor information can inform your segmentation and outreach style, making each follow-up relevant and engaging for its recipient. Now that’s a recipe for year-end appeal success!
7. Reference our free year-end appeal letter sample.
Now that you’ve got all the top tips in your back pocket, all you need is one last push in the right direction to get started on your year-end campaign.
Luckily for you, we’ve put together a sample your team can reference as you craft your best year-end appeals letter yet. Our letter works for direct mail or email appeals, but you’ll need to tailor it to meet your nonprofit’s specific audience, of course.
Thanks to your generosity, over 5,000 homeless animals received shelter, food, and life-saving veterinary care last year. With your help, many of these dogs and cats have been placed in loving homes. On their behalf, thank you for your help.
Just take a look at a dog like Fido. We brought him in off the streets hungry and scared. Thanks to donations from supporters just like you, our vet staff treated Fido for malnourishment, and he became healthy and trusting again in just a few weeks. Now, Fido is in the care of his forever family.
Fido can’t say thanks, but we can! We are so grateful to have supporters like you making stories like these a possibility for helpless pets.
Today, we embark on our Year-End Campaign. Our goal is to provide care for 500 more animals in need by raising $10,000 by December 31, but we can’t do it without help.
We’re reaching out to you because you’ve already demonstrated your compassion for cats and dogs like Fido. Would you be willing to make a special year-end contribution of $25, $50, or $100 to save 500 more animals in need?
With your support, we can impact our community in a lasting way.
Please join us by making your gift on our online donation form or by sending a check in the enclosed envelope. The lives of hundreds of animals are at stake.
Thank you for your continued support.
Local Animal Shelter
P.S. On our website, you’ll find dozens of more stories of animals just like Fido. You can learn more about the amazing work your donations make possible by checking out our nonprofit website, Facebook, and Twitter.”
There you have it! Tweak our sample to fit your recipients, mission, and channel, and you’ll be well on your way to fundraising appeal success in no time.
Year-end fundraising appeal letters are critical. With our strategies on hand, you should have no problem outlining a plan that reaches donors and guarantees donations.