Fundraising professionals from approximately 200 colleges, universities, and non-profit organizations attended this year’s Northeast Annual Giving Conference at Manhattanville College, located in beautiful Westchester County. Compu-Mail participated as a sponsor and while our representatives there, Michelle Talley and Paul Vander Horst, were not able to attend all of the fabulous sessions offered they brought back lots of tips and ideas for fundraisers.
We’ve put together some of those great takeaways to share, culled primarily from these two sessions:
“Sometimes Alumni Just Don’t Understand: Using Multi-Channel Marketing to Tell a Compelling Story (And Get Gifts)” presented by Colin Hennessy, Executive Director of The Penn Fund, University of Pennsylvania
“Write Better Letters: Innovative Annual Fund Appeals” presented by Donna Ancypa Holmes, Director of Annual Giving & Alumni Relations, Sewickley Academy
- Craft each letter with care.
When telling a compelling story, you must design a well-crafted variable letter. Meaningful customization is very important. Always begin by thinking about the most complex segment of your letter. Write the letter, then highlight where it could be better and refine it further. And don’t forget to personalize your “ask” amounts: determine four ask amounts based on the amount last given. The end of the fiscal year is the perfect time to complete this exercise.
- Connection counts.
Your fundraising letters should come from a leadership volunteer or someone that has a real connection to the cause. Consider highlighting a call out from students that have benefited from donor’s gifts in a Johnson box. Or reconnect alums to the “great experience moment.” For example, pull them back to the moment when they were accepted and received financial aid. Suggest they make it a “pay-it-forward” tradition: “Someone supported you, now you can give back and give a student that special moment.”
- Reward loyalty.
Create a loyalty society to recognize recurring donors that give with a monthly credit card donation. Members of this group really would be “perfect donors”: they give every year, or every month. This also lends itself well to themes for your message like: “You’re perfect…please don’t change a thing.” or “Always: Always here, always loyal, always special.”
- Keep emails short and sweet.
Email has become an important part of any integrated fundraising strategy. Remember there is a higher open rate on smartphones and tablets vs. traditional desktops, and because of this you must have shorter emails that maximize effectiveness on mobile platforms.
- TEST EVERYTHING.
Need we say more?