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3 Tips for Personalizing Your Fundraising Appeals

Your name is important to you. It's true, isn't it?

Even if you are in a room with many people chatting, you likely have "selective hearing" for your name.

When someone says your name, your brain has an amazing ability. It can focus on that one bit of information while simultaneously ignoring everything else.

What's super cool is that your brain sifts and sorts through millions of bits of data at any time, looking for anything pertinent to you. Your Reticular Activating System (RAS) helps with that.

Your RAS knows what's relevant to you and creates a filter for it.

How This Relates to Your Donor Communications

Like you, donors are naturally more inclined to engage with information that they find relevant and vital.

When a donor reads something from you, their brains are working fast to answer this question:

"Is this for me?"

The more personalized your communications, the better chance you have to keep the donor's attention. And the longer you can engage someone and touch their heart, the more likely they are to take action.

Are you giving your donors a personal experience? Or are you writing one generic message and blasting it out to everyone in your file?

3 Tips for Personalizing Your Fundraising Appeals

Here are 3 ways you can build your relationships and boost revenue for your cause.

Quick Tip #1 Use Their Names

Be sure to use the person's name in your communications, especially in a letter's or email's salutation.

Stay far away from "Dear Friend." (Nothing says, "I don't want to get to know you" quite like "Dear Friend" does.) After all, you know their names. Just be sure to take the time to merge them into your donor communications.

As Dale Carnegie said, "A person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language."

Using the donor's name is perhaps the easiest thing you can do to begin to build a strong relationship.

Quick Tip #2 Vary Donor Segments

Like with including the donor's first name, you can vary other copy in your fundraising piece too.

While your letter is essentially the same for all donors, some of your copy should be unique to the donor segment.

Here is an example of how you can vary copy in an appeal by segment based on giving behavior.

Active Donor List: 
Your heartfelt contribution today will provide squirrels with the nuts they need to survive.

Lapsed Donor List:
I haven’t heard from you since your last gift in [YearOfLastGift], and we miss you! Your renewed support today will provide squirrels with the nuts they need to survive.

Mid-Level & Major Donor Lists:
I am so grateful for your unwavering dedication to squirrels. Any generous contribution you make today will provide these cute rodents with the nuts they need to survive this season and beyond.

Monthly Donor List:
Thank you for your continuous and steady support. The squirrels are grateful they can count on you. If you are able, please make a special gift today to give squirrels the nuts they need to thrive this holiday season.

Quick Tip #2 Vary Gift Amounts

The suggested gift amounts listed in your appeal letter and reply form should be based on the individual donor’s last (or last best) gift.

To be clear, when I refer to suggested gift amounts, I mean the series of dollar handles you present to the donor.

Here's an example of suggested gift amounts from an appeal I recently reviewed:

Gift amounts starting at $25

So, you're probably wondering if this is a good series of gift amounts.

Well, that depends on the individual donor.

The donor's giving behavior is an excellent indicator of their giving ability for your cause. Luckily, you have that information in your database. It's gold!

For example, if the donor's last gift was around $25, starting the suggested gift amounts at $25 is appropriate.


If the donor's last gift was $250, starting the suggested amounts at $25 is a bad idea. You'd be anchoring lower than the donor's giving ability. Anchoring low can suppress the amount the donor will give.

So, in the case of the donor whose last gift was $250, you'd want to start their suggested giving amounts at or close to $250.

Putting the appropriate gift amounts in front of each donor is an act of good stewardship — and will have a tremendous impact on your revenue now and for years to come!

While you're here...

Why not read a little more?

Here are a few blog posts you might like:

1. Do Your Fundraising Stories Give Away the Ending?

2. The 1 Forrest Gump Fundraising Secret You Need

3. How To Balance Doom & Gloom with Happy & Hopeful in Your Fundraising Appeal

4. 7 Boring Ways to Transform Your Fundraising


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