It’s nearly the 4th of July here in the US, which means we’ll be celebrating our independence.
But independence is important for nonprofits, too! One of the best ways to maintain your financial independence is by increasing the amount of revenue you receive from individual donors.
Last week, I shared some of my thoughts about why nonprofits are struggling, as well as some tips about how to strengthen your grant proposals (http://bit.ly/MoreRevenue1). This week, I want to help you leverage more dollars from donors! Here are the techniques we use to craft powerful appeals:
- Write directly to your donors. In order to use those seven seconds effectively, you must understand your audience.
- If you don’t know who your donors are, you need to find out! What are their characteristics? How long have they been giving and at what amount? By analyzing your donor data, you can identify smaller pools of similar donors and write more personalized appeals geared specifically to them, which are more effective.
- What inspires your donors? What turns them off? An annual donor survey is a great way to find out! The feedback they provide can help you strengthen your donor stewardship, cultivation, and communications programs.
- Keep the tone casual, yet heartfelt. The letter should be intimate, as if it’s written to just that one donor. Your letter needs to come from the heart.
- Write in short sentences. When you’re talking to others, you don’t talk in long, drawn out sentences. Using short sentences in your letter helps create an intimate, conversational tone. Short paragraphs work better, too. And while you’re at it, please leave the jargon on the cutting room floor
- Use action verbs. Action verbs bring life to the letter and create a sense of urgency.
- Talk about what the donors gets from your organization. If you’re not entirely sure, ask your board and top donors what they get out of supporting the organization. You might be surprised by some of their answers!
- Use “you” and “your.” You can throw in us/we/our once or twice, but mostly it’s about them.
- Get personal. Use your mail merge function to personalize letters. Acknowledge how long the donor has been giving and/or have staff, board members and/or clients write personal notes on their letter.
- Tell stories. Stories illustrate your organization in a way that paragraphs of text cannot and help your donors understand the scope and nature of the problem while keeping it on a human scale. Many of your clients are eager to share their stories to encourage others who are in a similar situation and to give back to the agency that helped them solve their problem.
- Give your donors’ eyes a break – use lots of white space. Throw those ole spacing rules out the window! If you want to have a single sentence paragraph because that one sentence is going to make your donor stop and say, “OMG,” go for it! Bullets, photos, headings, and graphs can all provide visual interest and help keep the reader engaged.
- Consider the shapes you use. Did you know that there is actually a ratio that is most appealing to the human eye? It’s called the Golden Ratio or the Divine Proportion, and it produces a shape similar to a widescreen television or a cinema screen. Use it.
- As often as possible, use color. Graphic designers have long known that color plays a major role in the success of any marketing campaign. Specific colors tend to stir certain emotions in customers, thus creating brand relevance and motivating purchases.
- Consider your font. The whole point of an appeal is to have people read it, so it’s important to give some thought to what font you use. At a minimum, it should be 10 point, especially if you have donors who are over the age of 50!
- Forget the #10 white envelope. Consider creating something that’s an odd size, produced in bright colors – anything that will make it stand out from the rest of the mail in the pile a donor grabs out of their mailbox at the end of the day. Making sure your donor opens your direct mail at all is the first challenge you must overcome!
We hope these tips will help you craft compelling appeals that help you generate more revenue than ever before! On average, our clients see at least a 10% increase when we craft their appeals. Put them to work and see how you fare!
Next week, we’ll share some creative ideas for using social media to get donations!
Meanwhile, if you’ve got questions, feel free to get in touch! Sarah@newera4nonprofits.com
Fighting for your freedom,