A Good Fundraising Appeal- By My Standards

Courtney Sakre - 04.16.2009

I register with nonprofits via websites and by mail to conduct ongoing client research, so you might guess that I get a lot of donor email and snail mail.  I’ve been known to show up to nonprofit site visits armed with examples of what these organizations have sent me.  Most organizations find it endearing, though it has backfired once or twice!  So, when I receive a donation request that stands out, I like to show it off. 


Last week I received an incredible ask letter. What made it so incredible Courtney?  Let me share:







The Letter Was Tailored for Me:

It was not only personalized for my age, but also to the dynamics of my family.  The organization recognized that:

  1. I fall in the bracket of a traditional online donor (under 35); therefore they offered me the appropriate avenue to give. 
  2. I have a two year old, and the letter highlighted an area of the organization that pertained to young children.


The Organization’s Message Was Timely:

I hear from many nonprofits that they are trying to change their messaging based on the economy (aka the recession).  This one actually changed their message.  In the letter, they acknowledged that people may be struggling with finances, and if my family was one of those families, that we could offer “time or talent” to the organization instead of a monetary donation.


There Was a Clear Call-to-Action:

They asked for several calls to action to various outlets, and again gave several ways to respond; in person, at meetings, online or via mail.  The organization included a stamped reply envelope with the letter, to make it easier for me to give if I didn’t want to do it online. 


They Showed Accountability:

This is the #1 thing I look for in a nonprofit appeal.  If you are asking me to donate my hard earned dollars, not only do I want to know that good will come of the donation, I want to know that the organization is responsible enough to handle it.  The nonprofit in this example was transparent with their donations and allocations in 2008 and was very open with not only why they needed money, but they also talked about the impact they could make with the exact dollar amount they asked for.


What have you done right in an appeal?  What have you done really wrong?  Please leave a comment and share your story.  I’ll continue to update as the snail mail, or hopefully emails come in…

 Photo credit: Kevin H.

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