Friday, October 8, 2010

Top 10 Ways to Screw Up Your End of Year Fundraising Campaign

It's mid-October, I hope you all have thought about what your end of year fundraising campaign is going to look like.  Remember, here in the United States, tax-payers can take a deduction for charitable giving, and often send larger gifts in December in order to get those deductions.  Gail Perry offers excellent advice on what you need to avoid when sending end of year appeals.  My favorite?  Not including the return envelope!  I can't tell you how many organizations forget to do that!  You must make it as easy as possible to donate to your organization, so please, include the return envelope.  Bunnie

Top 10 Ways to Screw Up Your End of Year Fundraising Campaign
by Gail Perry, President of Gail Perry & Associates

There’s nothing more important this fall than your year-end fundraising effort. The next three months is the time when many charities receive most of their entire annual inflow of contributions.

And there is so much at stake right now. This year, more than ever, you’ve got to engage donors in your opportunity and ask them to join you – in a smart, effective and compelling way.

This article updates a list I created last fall. I’ve added more data and reminders for you here.

Please don’t make these mistakes!

Here’s my top 10 list of ways to sabotage your year-end fundraising effort.

1. Send a letter that’s hard to read, with ponderous sentences, long paragraphs and no white space. This fails the “easy to read” test, which is the first hurdle for your reader, who is skimming your prose for the highlights only. Check out my list of 115 Ways to Raise More Money by Mail for guidelines on writing an effective letter.

2. Send a letter much like last year’s with last year’s messaging, no visuals, no metaphors, no stories. Your reader is unlikely to keep reading if it is not interesting. You are not writing an academic treatise; instead you are writing marketing copy. Forget what you learned in your writing courses and instead copy a magazine’s writing style.

3. Bury The Ask deep inside a paragraph at the end of a sentence. Your reader must be able to easily find out how much you are asking for and for what purpose. Make it plainly clear what you are asking for – and ask cheerfully!

4. Don’t include a reply envelope. You’d be surprised how many organizations leave out this VITAL component – you have to make it easy for people to give. This really can be the kiss of death!

5. Don’t update your web site. Studies show that donors – even those who give by writing a check and sending it in the mail – will most often check out your web site to research you before they give. And your website MUST look professional and up-to-date! And it must convey credibility and legitimacy.

6. Only send out one appeal letter. This is disaster for many campaigns. Studies show that one letter will typically get a 15% response – NOT enough to make your year-end goal. Your donors are too busy and need repeated reminders. And no, it is not tacky to keep reminding them!

7. Don’t do phone followup. Studies show that a followup phone call can possibly double your results.

8. Don’t do an email push to non-donors the last two days of December. Studies show that a majority of on-line donors give in December and most of them are on the last two days of December. NOW is the time to get your online donation process working smoothly.

9. Don’t send a PROMPT, warm, personal thank you immediately to your donors. And “warm, personal” does not mean “on behalf of the board of directors we thank you for blah blah” – this impersonal bunk doesn’t warm your donor’s heart. A warm thank you uses the words “we” and “you” and is conversational in tone – not institutional. Penelope Burk’s all time favorite thank you letter begins like this: “You must have heard the cheers in our halls when we received your generous pledge.”

10. Don’t have your board members call donors to thank them within 24 hours of the gift’s receipt. Penelope Burk’s landmark studies showed that when board members made this type of followup call, then subsequent gifts from the donors rose by 39%!

Avoid at all costs, these mistakes. Create a dynamite year-end campaign that brings in the urgently needed resources you need!

Leave me a comment and tell me what you think!

To see more great tips from Gail Perry and to contact her, go to


  1. Love it Gail! I completely agree with you on every point, especially the one about burying the Ask. I've received letters that only hinted at an Ask and I couldn't figure out what they wanted.

    Thanks for the great reminders about what NOT to do!

    Sandy Rees

  2. Year end is such a perfect time to focus on relationship building with all modes of communication. Just read an article on the AFP website noting a study that says 1 in 3 donors make their gift online even if the appeal was by mail.

  3. This is so interesting blog. You are best listing knowledge provide at this site. I am very excited read this nice article. You can visit my site.
    non profit organization lists