As you go to your mail box these next few weeks you will notice a rise in letters from non-profit and ministry groups. Everyone that you have ever given to in the past, responded to or attended a meeting of theirs will send you a letter trying to convince you that you need to send them an end of year appeal. Why do they send out these letters? One simple reason, they work! Direct Mail raises millions of dollars every year in this country. While Social Media gets all the press and attention Direct Mail quietly brings in the bucks. In fact a recent study found that 37 % of donors who gave online did so as a result of a direct mail appeal.
So, my question to you is, why is your church not sending a end of year appeal to your donor list? Failing to do so could result in thousands of dollars lost to your ministry. At a time of the year when you are struggling to close out your budget year in the black this simple yet effective strategy could help save the day for you and your ministry. End of year appeals are not difficult to execute. Here are some things to consider.
When do you need to send an end of year appeal? Right before or just after Thanksgiving is the best time in my opinion. Donors are making end of year decisions in this time frame. For instance in a couple of weeks I will visit my accountant to get her advice on how to structure our accounts so we will not have to pay as much tax in the coming year. Did you know that your members who own their own business can through their business contribute to your ministry? Many are looking for a way to minimize the amount of tax they pay. An end of year letter might give them the idea to divert funds to your ministry and legally lower their tax bill. That is simply good stewardship.
Who needs to get an end of year appeal? Everyone. While an end of year appeal will typically only be directed at your top end donors you do not want to show favoritism with your donor base. Suppose you send me a letter but not a member of my small group. At lunch I ask him what he thought of your letter? He has just found out that I don’t view him as a significant donor. While his donation might be small it none the less can add up when you see donations from across your donor base.
What should the end of year appeal ask for? Every appeal must have some compelling reason to give. I call that a driver. The appeal drives me to give. An appeal that simply says, “Hey, help us make up ground on our budget,” is less appealing. An appeal that says, “Your gift will enable us to continue supporting mission work in India,” is appealing. Even if you need the appeal to go towards your operating budget make the appeal about ministry not about hitting some number. Tell them why it is important to make the budget and how an end of year gift can make a difference. The more specific the appeal the more effective the results.
What should the end of year appeal contain? Besides the letter itself your appeal should include an envelope that is postage paid. That way if they throw it away you are not out postage. If they mail it back with a check you have more than made up the cost of the postage you will pay. You might also consider supplemental materials like pictures to drive home your point. My wife regularly contributes to Smile Train a non-profit that helps repair cleft palate babies world wide. Every letter has a glossy picture of needy children inserted into it. What visual could you include in your letter that might further compel donors to give?
What should the tone be? Positive! Negative appeals turn people off. Always be positive. I like to write the first paragraph telling about all the great things the ministry is doing. I write the second paragraph telling what the ministry needs to do immediately to fulfill the vision God has given them. The next paragraph lists how donors can help and asks for their support. The final paragraph thanks them for their past support and for prayerfully considering this request. I personally like the appeal to be one page.
Who should it come from? The Senior Pastor should always be the sender. While someone else might write it for him he none the less needs to be the one to sign it. Here is a thought, why not personally sign them? While that might take a couple of hours it could mean all the difference. The next time you are listening to a sermon for sermon prep, why not sign letters? The more personalize the delivery the more effective the result.
So, what are you waiting for? Get started on that letter now! You might just find that your end of year appeal could bring in thousands of dollars.
Founder and President
The Charis Group