I got the most exasperating appeal the other day. After I got done rolling my eyes, I decided to write about it. Today, I’m talking to you as a donor, not someone whose primary job it is to talk about fundraising best practices.
The appeal in question was one of the most uninspired appeals I’ve ever read. Instead of a return address, the nonprofit printed its name and “FISCAL YEAR-END APPEAL” in big bold letters. I could draw a lot of conclusions about the contents of the letter just from that, but I read it anyway. The appeal’s call to action was to donate to the nonprofit so they could meet their fundraising goals because their fiscal year-end was approaching.
Please don’t ask people to donate because it’s your fiscal year-end
Y’all, I’m going to be honest: I don’t care about your fiscal year-end. Your donors don’t care about your fiscal year-end. Nobody cares about your fiscal year-end.
Honestly, I get why you might send an appeal like this one. When you’re immersed in budgeting, fundraising expectations, and tight deadlines, it’s easy to forget that not everyone is as motivated by those things as you are. It’s understandable! But, if you want to raise money to meet your fiscal year-end goals, you need a better reason for your appeal than “we need your money because our accountants will be mad if we don’t have it by the end of April.”
But friends, people aren’t donating to your nonprofit. They’re not donating to see you succeed. People donate because they’re invested in the work you do. They give because they want to feed the hungry, or take care of neglected animals, or look after children. They donate because they want to impact their environment or uplift their community. They’re not donating money to you or to your organization. They’re giving to the people you help. They’re not concerned with your deadlines, your fiscal year-end, or when your rent check is due. They’re concerned with the difference they can make in the world through you.
We know that appeals are most effective when they include a sense of urgency. But that urgency should be related to your mission, not to your accounting schedule. Are families facing food insecurity because of upcoming school holidays? That’s an urgent need. Did your animal shelter take in an influx of pets after another shelter closed? That’s an urgent need. Are people in your community struggling after a natural disaster? That’s an urgent need. Do you have to have your financials to your CPA in three weeks? That is not an urgent need.
It’s easy for me to be wound up about this because I see so many nonprofits sending amazing appeals, and I know everyone else can build amazing appeals, too. But I also understand that some nonprofits have always sent appeals asking for support before their fiscal year ends.
So, if you are one of those nonprofits, please listen to this piece of advice from someone who wants to see you succeed: please don’t ask people to donate to you merely because your fiscal year is coming to a close.
Instead, focus on inspiring your donors.
Here’s what do instead
Donors want to know they matter. Instead of asking them to help you meet a bookkeeping deadline, empower them to make a difference! Show them how they can use your nonprofit as a tool to support a cause they love. Encourage them to get involved in a mission that inspires them.
Here are some ways you can accomplish those goals:
- Take time to understand what motivates your donors, then apply that knowledge to your appeal. Don’t know where to start? That’s okay! We wrote an article about it over here.
- Find a story that will resonate with your donors and use it as the basis for your appeal letter. If you want to learn more about finding and telling a great story, check out this webinar on the topic!
- Put together a great appeal that will stand out in the mail. You need to set yourself apart from the tons of mail your donors receive. Here’s how to do it.
- Make a specific ask in your appeal — the more specific you can be, the better. Tie your ask to the impact that money will make; it will help donors envision what their gift will accomplish. Here are some examples!
- Include a great image that connects your donors to your mission. Instead of using stock photos, use your own images! Click over here to learn some best practices that will help you choose the best possible picture.
There’s nothing wrong with worrying about your fiscal year-end. But asking your donors to write you a check because your fiscal year-end is approaching is not effective. Instead, write an appeal that connects donors to a cause they care about. You’ll have happier donors, and you’ll raise more money!