Our original topic for this newsletter was the spring appeal.
COVID-19 has changed a lot, but it does not have to change everything.
Before we talk about spring appeals, let’s spend a few minutes addressing what’s on everyone’s mind: the novel coronavirus pandemic. For many donor-centric organizations, this is a doubly tough time: contributions are down at the same time that many organizations, and the services they provide, are needed most.
If this sounds like your organization, then consider doubling down on the need to connect with past donors and would-be donors. Many companies and organizations are using the pandemic as a reason to appeal to customers and donors. Cutting through this will require honest, simple communications. If the people that benefit from your service are particularly impacted by the pandemic and its ramifications—job losses, income reductions, etc.—then lay that out.
Be direct. Be transparent. Be persistent.
Onto the Spring Appeal
At first glance, a spring appeal campaign may seem daunting—especially in current circumstances. The year-end push—including what was probably your biggest annual fundraising period—ended not long ago. You are dealing with the pandemic. You may think you don’t have time for a spring appeal.
We suggest you reconsider—and think differently.
With a few simple steps, your spring appeal can be differentiated from your other campaigns, and that can help make it successful, even during these unusual times. Here are a few ideas we have used with clients that have helped create successful spring donor outreach campaigns.
Make Your Appeal A Non-Appeal
One of the enduring themes that we stress with all donor communications is to make the story about your cause and/or your members—not so much about you. If you’re going to break this rule, the spring outreach is the time to do it.
Try approaching your spring campaign as a donor update. Your just-completed year-end push probably talked about the goals you were striving to meet. Your spring campaign is a great time to provide a brief recap on what you—with the help of your donors, of course—accomplished last year.
Considering the current environment, highlight some of the ways you are helping your constituents during the pandemic, or some new initiatives you’re planning. You can also highlight upcoming milestones or projects in the year ahead—looking beyond the novel coronavirus isn’t a bad way to spread a little hope.
Your spring appeal campaign does not have to be grand. While it’s always nice to attract new and repeat donors and higher donations, your spring appeal can be more focused.
For instance, you may want to start by filtering out donors who gave in your most recent campaign. Then perhaps add ones that have given before but not recently, or that have interacted with your organization in some way, such as opening an email or attending an event. Tailoring your outreach in such a way can help keep the campaign cost-effective while targeting likely donors.
Another idea: be very specific in what you want. Of course, every nonprofit wants more and bigger donations. But if you articulate a simple, achievable goal, donors may be more motivated to respond.
Maybe there is a specific project in your near-term plans with a modest budget. Describe it, be clear about the funding needs, and go in for the ask. If the novel coronavirus pandemic has created specific needs, then articulate them, put a target amount on the total you need, and reach out with a donor-specific request.
How do you get to that number? Great question. We recommend breaking your project or goal down to a key number. Let’s say you are generating funds to provide kids with backpacks full of school supplies when they can all go back. Your goal is to help 1,000 kids, and you plan to spend $30 per child on a backpack and supplies. Your total goal is $30,000, but look at it this way: you need $30 donated 1,000 times. The key number for donors to know is $30.
Hammer home in your outreach that $30 will make a difference for one child. Ask for $30 and ask again. And remind your would-be donor that for every $30 donated, a child has school supplies for the coming year.
Being this direct ensures the would-be donors know what you need—and what you want. Ones that can afford to give more than $30 probably will. Ones that don’t know how much to give will lock in on the $30—which is exactly what you want.
Spring appeals are a great time to get creative, for several reasons. First, if you’ve followed the above advice, you will have a smaller list than a larger, year-end appeal. You’re also communicating with your would-be donors, not just asking them for money.
There are a few ways to take advantage of these steps. If you’re doing a physical mailing (and we hope you are), consider enclosing a creative giveaway—something inexpensive and appropriate for your organization that you can safely source. Or, use the spring theme and drop in a packet of seeds. Such small surprises and tokens of appreciation are always popular, and would provide an extra special lift during these times.
While you’re at it, think about surveying your audience to glean information that will help you with future initiatives. Maybe you want to gauge their views on a particular topic or issue that has emerged in your space. Digital surveys are easiest, so don’t be afraid to include a simple link on paper that your would-be donor can use.