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How to Write a Compelling Nonprofit End-of-Year Letter

Whether your nonprofit’s end-of-year campaign begins on November 1 or with Giving Tuesday, year-end giving is crucial for fundraising success. It starts with a compelling nonprofit end-of-year letter. Here’s why:

More than 30 percent of all charitable giving happens in the month of December.

The best year-end appeal is one that is well-planned and uses a multi-channel approach that includes direct mail, social media, and email communication.

While there are many essential elements to your end-of-the-year giving campaign, the fundraising letter itself is the most important. A well-crafted appeal letter can inspire donors to give more than ever before.

To ease the stress many fundraisers feel this time of year, we have put together our best tips for writing a compelling letter. So, before you open that blank Word document, check out these helpful tips to write the most impactful appeal letter yet.

Consider the Timing of Your End-of-Year Fundraising Letter

Letters should arrive in mailboxes right around Thanksgiving.

To make that happen, plan your appeal and work backward to determine when you need to have the final draft ready for the printer. For example, if you need a week to receive and approve a proof, a week to complete the variable imprints, and a week for the mail house to stuff the envelopes, you need to start working in October if not before. Every printer and mail house may have different recommendations based on the volume of nonprofits they work with, speak to your representative to find out what they recommend.

Pair the Letter with E-mail, Social Media, and Phone Calls for the Best End of Year Giving Campaign

Once you write the fundraising letter, use that letter to create the ancillary content including e-mail, social media posts, and phone calls to donors. Make sure that all of your digital content drives donors toward a specific call to action – a donate button. Remember to make donors the hero of the story and show them how their donations are changing the world.

Write an “Ugly” Nonprofit End-of-Year Donation Letter

What do we mean by “ugly letter?” We mean a letter that looks like it was written by a real person and a letter that is proven to generate higher donations – often at the expense of it being a nice, professional-looking piece of mail.

Don’t try to make your letter a pristine business letter and don’t use long, industry-specific words. Your letter should not use bullet points or lots of statistics. Instead, write a letter that your grandmother would want to read.

The highest-performing fundraising letters use indented paragraphs, large 13-14 point font, and bold or underlined sentences that highlight important parts of the story.

These letters may not meet the brand standards of your marketing department, but they will raise you more money. Because donors like to read letters that feel like they came from a friend. Use short, simple sentences with easy-to-read fonts.

Check out our complete guide for writing the world’s best fundraising letter.

Make the Reader Nod Their Head as They Read Your End-of-Year Fundraising Letter

If you can write a letter that makes a donor nod his or her head while reading it, you’re almost always going to receive a donation.

This means personalizing letters beyond just the name and address. Start with one short attention-grabbing sentence of ten words or less and then tell the reader a heartfelt and compelling story.

In the story it is important to help the reader understand what they can make possible; the donor needs to be the hero of the story. Use family language, a lot of emotion, and show the donor gratitude for their previous support. If you can get them nodding along as they read, you have accomplished your goal and will likely receive a gift.

For year-end letters consider a story that ties in with the theme of the season of giving. Use a call-out or Johnson box to recognize donors for their years of giving or for being a member of a special giving club or legacy society. The more you can personalize the letter to that specific donor, the better.

Donor segmentation can help you personalize the letter even further. Consider donor segments such as major donors, LYBUNTS and SYBUNTS, first-time donors, and donors who typically give at end of the year.

Let the Pledge Card Do the Heavy Lifting for the Ask for Your End-of-Year Giving Campaign

Often fundraisers wonder if they should ask for a gift in the letter. Asking within the letter can sometimes break the magic of the emotion in the letter. Let your well-designed, personalized pledge card do the heavy lifting. The pledge card is where you can set personalized ask amounts for every donor. If updating your pledge card was not part of your end-of-year fundraising plan, add it to the list today!

Follow up with Donors for the Best End-of-Year Campaign

The best year-end fundraising campaigns pair direct mail with email, social media, and phone calls for the biggest impact. Follow your end-of-year fundraising appeal with an end-of-year fundraising email at the beginning of the month and then an additional 1-2 emails later in the month, with the message, “there is still time to give!” E-mail that is personalized and sent from a staff member or board member’s personal e-mail instead of a mass mailing system, like Constant Contact, will have the biggest impact.

Remember to make a plan for letters to arrive around Thanksgiving, include a multi-channel approach that uses direct mail paired with e-mail and social media, write heartfelt “ugly” nonprofit end-of-year letters, segment donors, let the pledge card do the heavy lifting, and follow up. Small changes to strategy for your end-of-year giving campaign can have a big impact!

Remember that 30 percent of all giving happens in December and as much as 10% of annual giving happens in the final three days of the year it is vital to get your end-of-year campaign right. You can get additional help by downloading our sample end-of-year fundraising letter or learning more about how AskGenius can assist in setting personalized ask amounts for every donor.

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