Last week, I shared what’s on my to-do list for year-end fundraising season. Although December is still a few months away, now is the time to make your work plan. One of the items that I like to think about in August is the theme and messaging for the appeal.
The theme and messaging are important items to start with when you are planning your year-end giving campaign because they will determine many aspects of your communications and appeals, as well as other aspects such as the stories you tell and the visual design. By deciding on these foundational pieces first, you will make the whole process of creating and designing the appeal so much easier.
Today, I want to share a few specific tips to help you determine your theme and messaging.
Tip #1 Craft a Compelling Call to Action
The key to a successful fundraising appeal? A specific, tangible, deadline-driven ask.
The benefit of making sure every ask includes these three things is that 1) donors will know exactly how their money will be used, 2) donors will understand the impact of giving and 3) there will be a sense of urgency for them to give.
I always encourage my clients and students to avoid a call to action like this, “Donate today.” That is not enough information to be a compelling call to action.
If your organization is not sure about the specific, tangible aspects of the ask, think about specific project or priority that might appeal to your donors. I’m not saying that you need to raise designated funds. In fact, around the ask, you can include language like, “Your donation of $$ will go towards projects like XYZ.” Using the word “like” is your golden ticket to showing donors that this is just one type of important project their donation can help.
Tip #2 Develop Memorable Messages
A message is a key idea that you want get convey to your audience. I like to start with the question of – what do I want people to remember after they have read the appeal? You might want to go through a brainstorming process for this.
You might decide to have more than one message. Over the course of several weeks leading into December fundraising, these different messages could be themed together so that there is some continuity. Furthermore, it’s possible for you to test these messages leading up to December to see what is resonating with your audience.
But how can you truly create a memorable and resonant message? You have to know your audience. There is plenty of time to research and test in September and October to make sure you hit it out of the park come December.
Tip #3 Develop Your Content Strategy Leading into the Asks
We all know that it is not enough to ask your donors to give. We have to cultivate and steward them if we hope to retain them as donors. Once we know what the ask(s) and message(s) will be in December, we can start to develop a content or communications strategy that seamlessly leads into them.
For example, you could start to think about what kind of stories you could tell that might be related to your messages. You could also plan thematic social media content that is on message. You could also integrate this messaging into your upcoming newsletters. There are a lot of options and this is where you actually develop and execute an integrated year-end giving strategy.
There really can be a lot to think about when it comes to year-end campaigns. But the campaign itself is only as complex as you make it. Break it down, identify what needs to get done, and start executing. Know that each day you make progress on your year-end campaign is another day that brings you closer to success.