What Makes a Good End of Year Appeal? New socks and underwear.

Nobody likes to receive new socks and underwear for Christmas, right? 

In my first professional fundraising job, I worked for a children’s shelter in Greenville, SC.  I will never forget that first holiday season, asking the kids in the shelter what they wanted for Christmas.  I expected to hear them say things like GameBoys (remember those?) and American Girl dolls which I understood were all the rage with young children at the time.  Instead, I got answers like new socks and underwear.  Wow.  This put so many things into perspective. It also fueled my zeal to raise funds to ensure that those children got those things and so much more.

As you pen your final appeals for the year, remember to focus on the true need.  The true need will be what donors will respond to.  You may be thinking that the challenge is to meet your budget or that your organization requires “general operating support.” 

But these are not the needs donors care about.  They care about the wants and deprivations behind your need.  Your donors don’t want to hear about what you need; they want to hear about the exigency of the people you serve. 

I know.  I hear you.  You’re thinking:  you need cash just to pay the power bills, to keep the lights on at your organization.  But as you write your end of year appeals and issue your final email reminders that gifts are still needed, remember that the need is not for your organization or for your power bill—it’s for the need behind that need.  Why does your organization require an office and have a power bill?  Because you are working to help someone who has some need.  Focus on that imperative.  That’s what donors care about and that’s what donors will respond to.

As an added benefit, not only will your donors respond, but you’ll find that you and your board members will also be re-energized and re-committed to fundraising.

“I remember a time when my mom bought food and we all had enough to eat.”  That’s what one child we served at that shelter bragged about.  He remembered one time when there was plenty.  One time.  It broke my heart.

What is it about the need you serve that breaks yours?  You want a better life for the people you serve.  Tell your donors why.  That’s what makes a good end of year appeal.