Scroll Top
Close up Coins in glass jar for giving and donation


It’s that time of year again when, in Southern California, there is no marked change in weather but there’s a flurry of activity. The year end appeal.

Whether you’re looking to increase donations or add to your fundraising efforts, the year end appeal is an important part non-profit fundraising.

Today I want to talk about three common types of appeals and five tips for success in each type. You may be surprised to learn that the three most common types of year end appeals are: letter, in-person, and email. Okay… maybe that wasn’t a surprise.

Keep in mind your first consideration should be your audience. You should know their age ranges, past support habits, and communication preferences at the very least. All are important components to keep in mind when you are making the decision on what type of appeal you will use.

The In-Person Appeal

The in-person year end appeal is the most powerful form of appeal. Not only can it result in a donation, it simultaneously builds loyalty to your organization. The people you choose for the in-person appeal are likely already familiar with your non-profit, have supported you in the past and  have a vested interest in your success. Here are five tips:

  1. Appropriate timing. Don’t make it awkward, don’t make it difficult. Simple is better. Take a lunch meeting, meet for coffee, or stop by their home or business (you should be invited and scheduled in advance, of course!).
  2. Eye contact and honesty. Make eye contact and be friendly. Smile. You don’t have to spill the dirt on your non-profit’s shortcomings or problems. The honesty I’m referring to here is being okay with telling them you need financial support. Don’t be shy or pretend like your non-profit doesn’t need money. There is always a need.
  3. Let them know they are important to the success of your non-profit. Help them understand what a key role they play in your success.
  4. Get a firm yes or no. You want to get a commitment to give before the end of the year. If they say yes, then ask when you can pick up the check.
  5. Say, send, and show them a big “thank you”. Say it then and there, send it later, and show them by featuring their gift in a newsletter or honoring them at an event (for those who give larger gifts).


The Letter Appeal

There’s a reason every year about this time your mailbox is full of letter appeals. That’s because letters are effective fundraising tools. Make sure your list is clean and up-to-date before you send your letter. Here are five tips:

  1. Keep the writing style simple. No overly long sentences. No complicated ideas.
  2. Tell a story or two. People love to read about stories, especially real life stories.
  3. Add photos that correspond with your story. If you are telling a story about someone your non-profit helped, get a photo of them. Try to get the highest quality photo you can. (Bonus tip: hire a photographer but set up the day with multiple photo opportunities so you can get the best bang for your buck. You will come away with professional photos you can use all year in various campaigns)
  4. Suggest donation amounts that will inspire more giving. ($10 supports services for a day, but $25 dollars will feed three children for a week)
  5. Design the tear-off portion well. Make sure you have room for people to fill out their information with running off the page. Nothing worse than getting incomplete information because someone didn’t have room to fill out the form.


The Email Appeal

Best used in conjunction with a letter and in-person appeal, the email appeal can be an effective way to close the gap between young and mature audiences. The email can also act as a reinforcement to the letter appeal. Here are five tips:

  1. Email appeals should reflect your nonprofit’s brand. Use your logo, colors and fonts that you use on your website and other materials.
  2. Use simple uncluttered design, with limited graphics and images. When emails are simple and designed well, they look more professional which helps engage more of your audience.
  3. Write the email differently than you would a letter. Keep the message clear and to the point. Emails get deleted if they take too long to read.
  4. Link photos or other graphics to your website’s donation page. A missed link could be a missed donation opportunity.
  5. Use photos to reinforce your appeal not to define it. A good photo at the top or center of the email can help pull the reader into the body of the email and increases the odds of them reading it all the way through.

There you have it. Three types of year end appeals, and five tips on being successful for each one.

Finally, one general tip for those of you out there that read this far – start early on all of your fundraising appeals. Use the time to ensure your lists are clean and put some effort into the design and writing of your appeal. It will all pay off at the end of the year.

Orange Door Consulting provides fundraising consulting services to the top non-profits in Orange County and Los Angeles County. Contact us to see how we can help you succeed with your fundraising goals.