How Your Board Can Help Your Year-End Appeal

Image: Digitalart at

Image: Digitalart at

Everyone working in nonprofit organizations is focused on fundraising this time of year. And everyone has an opinion on how it could be done better. Your board is no exception. Good board members always try – as they should! - to help ensure the financial stability of the nonprofits they serve. 

To educate your board and help them help you, read on for 5 bits of info you can share with your board members this season for them to keep top of mind during November and December’s fundraising activities.

1. Fundraising costs money.

Like many things, you will need to invest both time and money in your year-end fundraising activities in order to see results. But some strategies are more effective than others in terms of dollars raised vs. dollars spent. The fundraising ladder of effectiveness ranks each fundraising activity from most effective to least effective. 

In general, the more personal the Ask, the more effective it will be. Thus, asking for a gift in person will give you the best results. But you likely will not have the time or resources to personally ask each person on your donor or prospect list. So you will want to employ other fundraising activities.

2. Yes, you should send a year-end appeal.

If there is any debate about this at all, squash it! Studies show that nearly 1/3 of annual charitable donations in America are made during the month of December. Even if it feels like you don’t have time to pull something spectacular together, do SOMETHING. Don’t miss out on the momentum that’s already out there. 

To keep it really simple, send an email. To make it more personal – and thus more effective – try drafting an email for each board member to send to their contacts. Be sure to include a link to your online giving page. And if you send something in the mail, ask board members to include a handwritten note in as many letters as possible. And include a reply envelope. 

3. It is less expensive to renew current donors than to recruit new ones.

Unfortunately, many nonprofits do a poor job of retaining current donors. This is a well documented fact, supported by data from the field. So if your board is suggesting you need to find brand new donors, you can share with them that focusing your year-end campaign on donors from last year is your best bet. 

Your year-end appeal is a time to connect with donors and prospects you have already had some contact with during the past 12 months. Will some brand new supporters pop up? I hope so! But focus your time and resources on communicating with those already in your court.

4. People don’t give if they are not asked. And then asked again.

Be sure your board members understand this if they are fretting about sending someone a second appeal letter this year, or strategizing another approach to a major gift prospect who said “let me think about it” 6 months ago. 

According to Smart Annual Giving, the response rate for renewal appeals generally falls somewhere between an acceptable 5 percent and a really great 20 percent. (Of course, the response rate for acquisition appeals would be lower.) The direct mail guru, Mal Warwick, and others suggest that sending a follow-up letter or email can increase response rates by 15-25 percent.  

5. Phone calls can raise more money.

Going back to the Ladder of Effectiveness, you can boost your fundraising results by coupling mailed solicitations (or even emails!) with follow up phone calls. Try organizing a phone-a-thon for your board and other volunteers, and you may be surprised at how much more you’ll raise.

Thoughts? Questions? How do you engage your board in year-end fundraising? Please share your experiences, thoughts and ideas in the Comments box below! 

Special gift for you: Conquer Your Fear of Asking for Money, a step-by-step guide, is available here (click).