In the previous post, I answered a question about replacing an appeal letter with a newsletter. I received follow up questions and thought I'd answer one here so everyone can benefit.
Fundraising Writing email subscriber Mary Ann asks:
"Would you have this (the appeal letter and newsletter) in the same envelope? I ask because I've seen this from other organizations. Or are you talking two different mailings—one would be an appeal letter and then a few months later, follow it up with a newsletter showing the impact?
Mary Ann's question is a good one because it addresses the purpose of each piece of donor communications and the timing.
You may recall from the email last week, I created an image of the ask-thank-report donor communications cycle that I first learned about from Tom Ahern and Steven Screen. (Update 7-11-2020: Steven just wrote a fantastic blog about this here.)
Today, I've added to that image to help you better understand each piece's purpose.
Here it goes...
In the appeal, you tell the donor what their gift will do.
"Ask" in the future tense.
Example: Your gift will provide urgent medical care for children who need it most...
Because each piece of donor communications has a specific role, you absolutely do NOT want to mix your appeal letter and your newsletter in one envelope or in one email. Doing so will surely suppress your response rate and donations.
The appeal letter needs to be singly-focused on earning a donation. On the other hand, the newsletter may contain several feel-good success stories and updates—AND you may also ask for a gift. But getting the donation isn't a newsletter's primary goal.
Now, let's talk about timing...
Question: How soon after an appeal sends do you follow up with a newsletter?
Because each organization has its own unique funding needs, I cannot offer a one-size-fits-all answer. The number, types, and frequency of correspondence vary as much as the organizations themselves do.
But—to help you visualize how a plan could work—I'll give you an example. Let's say you mail a printed appeal letter 4 times per year. How might that look in real life with the thank-yous and newsletters, in print and email?
Click here or on the image to download my donor communications calendar blocking example.
Use this donor communications calendar blocking sample to help you plan. Your schedule will vary based on your organization's program needs throughout the year. The frequency of your communications will depend on your funding needs and goals. Not included here—but should be considered—are appeals for monthly donor upgrades, donor acquisition, and legacy giving.
You can adapt this plan to meet your needs and capacity. The more you ask, thank and report, the more you'll raise. So, loosen up the schedule if you don't need to raise as much money and tighten it if you need to raise more.
If you want to get more in-depth, I have a couple of suggestions. First, Steve Screen offered some brilliant communication schedules during his talk at the 2019 Nonprofit Storytelling Conference. You probably can purchase past videos from them. (It was a great conference, and I recommend attending their upcoming conference in October, which will be a virtual event.)
Also, I offer coaching if you need personal guidance and a plan that's just right for you. See this page for a list of my typical writing and consulting services. Feel free to contact me to discuss how we might be able to work together.
Don't forget to grab the donor communications calendar blocking sample here. Share it with colleagues and see how you can adjust it to meet your organization's needs.
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