5 Tips for Writing Year-End Appeals That Bring in More Funds

It’s that time of year again—the season of making snow angels, ice skating and eating entire rolls of cookie dough is upon us. For your NPO, this magical season means recognizing deadlines and making sure you’re making the most of your your year-end appeal. It is extremely important to utilize this window of opportunity and connect with donors on a personal level before the shiny ball in Times Square drops.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking your year-end giving strategy has to be boring. Keep in mind that in an age dominated by technology, direct mail and personalized letters aren’t dead.

Here are five tips on how to raise more money with your year-end fundraising:

Start with “Thank You”

Set the tone of gratitude by writing your thank-you first. Showing gratitude will keep donors coming back. You can’t thank donors enough so it’s important to start by thanking them, but don’t stop there. Much like the ask, you can include gratitude throughout your letter. As Pamela Grow puts it, make your donor feel like a valued friend.

Segment Donors

Figure out who you’re writing to and break down your appeals to cater to specific donors. It’s important that you aren’t sending the same ask or thank-you to someone who supported once by attending an event and someone who has been loyally donating for 20 years. Similarly, figure out what specific donors are interested in giving to. Where did they give last year? Make sure your ask is on purpose. This will help you narrow down what to ask for and how to ask for it. For example, older readers respond best to direct mail. Generation X and Y, along with baby boomers, give most over mobile phone and through their workplace.

Make it Conversational

This step speaks to the donor as a person and not as a mass of people supporting your NPO. Know your donors (and even potential donors) well enough to shape the voice of your year-end ask—as if you’re having a conversation with them specifically. Don’t include wordy jargon. Make your ask simple, straightforward and just informal enough to seem friendly and personal. And be sure to have the word “you” included in your letter more times than you say, “I, me or my” to help shift the focus on your donor and the cause, and less on your organization.

Tell the Story Over Statistics

We all know that numbers don’t lie, but they can also get old pretty quickly when reading lists of them. If you must include stats, spread them out. Add in an infographic to make the statistical portion of your letter more interesting and visual. Tell the story. Tug on their heartstrings and appeal to a donor’s pathos.

This pathos—or emotion—is where your storytelling starts from. Talk about the cool things your organization has been able to accomplish, and remind them that this incredible story wouldn’t have happened without their generosity. Include that not only were they a part of the change, but they can continue to be a part of the change in your year-end appeal.

Don’t Forget the Ask!

One of the biggest and most obvious steps involved in year-end giving appeals often goes missing. The ask. Don’t forget that the reason you’re talking to your donors personally, telling the story of how they made a change and writing this letter is simple—donations.

If you forget to call them to action and actually make the donation, you could have completely missed out on the purpose of your fundraising letter altogether. It’s up to you when in the letter you want to make the ask, but know that it’s okay to ask early on and that you can do so more than once.

Calling All Procrastinators: 7 Tricks to Raise More Money With Your Year End Appeal [Pamela Grow]


Nick Small

With specialties in content strategy and creation, social media engagement and digital marketing optimization, Nick brings a depth of experience in nonprofit marketing. He’s also helped hundreds of nonprofits with their online presence to improve donor retention and attract new audiences, and he still has time for a good glass of whiskey, round of golf or new adventure.

September 12, 2013

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