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How to Write the Perfect Year End Appeal Letter & Email (With Examples)

By: Billy Sharma, nonprofit direct marketing consultant, and author. 

Why Send a Year End Appeal Letter

You should send a year-end appeal because your donors are most generous during the end of the year. In fact, nearly one-third of annual giving occurs in December.

And 50% of nonprofits receive a majority of their annual donations in the last three months of the year – from October through December 

year-end-giving-stats

Giving Statistics

In the USA: The 2018 DMA Response Rate Report indicates that the average direct mail response rates were 9% in 2018, significantly up from 2017, when it was 5.1%. The prospect list response rate was 4.9%, also showing a big increase compared to the 2.9% it achieved the year before.

In Canada: According to Good Works: Canadian Direct Mail Benchmark Study 2020, and Stats Canada, direct mail revenues grew in 2019 by more than 5% from the previous year. And average gift amounts jumped by nearly 7%. 

This indicates that while organizations’ donor lists aren’t experiencing tremendous growth (the data showed an increase of only 0.30%), the donors that do give via mail are giving more money, more often. 

How to Write the Perfect Year-end Appeal Letter

 

Here’s a great year-end appeal example from Women’s College Hospital. Their appeal package gets everything right!   

End-of-year-appeal-letter-womens-college 

1. Make your letter donor centric 

Make sure your year-end appeal is not about about your charity, but about how your donors can help the people or the cause that you cater to.

 

2. Make your letter emotional

The message in your year-end appeal letter should resonate with your donors by making sure that:

  • It is a conversation and not a monologue. 
  • It is an emotional piece that connects with your donors. There is great wisdom in what Maya Angelou said: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
  • It is an inspirational story of one individual that donors can relate to because stories encourage people to give by letting them visualize who they will be potentially helping. 

End-of-year-appeal-letter

3. Highlight what you have achieved

Make sure to draw attention to what you have achieved over the year in your end of year appeal letter. This will show your donors the impact of their past donations.

4. Emphasize exclusivity with a membership card

People like to belong. If you structure your year-end appeal offer as joining a club or charitable organization, you can send a membership card printed on plastic or heavy paper. You can even personalize it, provide contact information, and list benefits. 

This transforms a mere transaction into something more beneficial.

5. Use a larger donation envelope

As we’ve said before, it’s a good idea to use a larger envelope. It will help your end of year fundraising appeal stand out from the rest.  

year-end-appeal-envelope

6. Include a donation form

Make it really easy for your donors to give by including a donation form and an envelope to return it in your year-end appeal package. 

Consider offering a greater incentive to give by matching donations. 

year-end-appeal-matching-donations

Also, you should always offer an opportunity to give monthly. 

year-end-fundraising-appeal-letter

 

For help, check out these fundraising letter templates with donation forms 

 

7. Make it engaging

Now, if you add an engagement device, it will further deepen your donors’ relationship with your nonprofit, and will generate even more funds. 

That’s because nearly 90% of marketers believe that interactive content that allows your donors to interact with the a direct mail appeal, makes it more memorable. 

year-end-fundraising-letter-card

Interactive content allows you to provide a more engaging experience for your donors, and can help make them feel involved and immersed in your organization.

 
Check out A Brilliant Holiday Fundraising Letter that Generated 875% ROI, for an example of an engaging end of year Christmas fundraising letter with incredible results! 
 

8. Say thank you 

When sending your year end appeal letter, be sure to use this opportunity to thank donors for their previous support. Saying thank you at every opportunity, including your year-end appeal, is important for retaining your current donors, and making sure they stay and donate year-after-year.

You might also consider sending them a hand written note along with their donation receipt. Mail a postcard, because nothing says “you matter” quite like a handwritten note. 

End of Year Appeal Letter Samples

Here are some examples of successful year-end appeal letters: 

Year-end Appeal Letter Sample: Heart House Hospice

This year end appeal example by Heart House Hospice generated 2.5 times more funds than what they generally receive from their regular appeals at other times of the year.

year-end-appeal

Year-end Appeal Letter Sample: Massey Center

Another great example of a successful end of year appeal letter is this one the Massey Center. They sent a New Year Card to donors, but told them it was not for them. 

They asked donors to sign the card and send it back, so that they could give it to their residents, young moms who have no husband or family anymore, having been abandoned by the men who made them pregnant and asked to leave the house by their parents.

Inside the card, it was signed by the entire staff with a space for the donor to sign and mail back.

year-end-appeal

The letter went on to explain why the year-end card was enclosed and how the interaction from the donors would help the residents of the charity. Namely, single mothers with no family, since they were abandoned by the men who got them pregnant and family members who threw them out of their home for getting pregnant.

The Result: Total DM revenues for year now at $13,931. Twice the amount as our regular mailings.

Use these downloadable fundraising letter templates as a guide for writing your year-end appeal letter.

When to Send Year-end Appeal Letter

  1. It is recommended that you launch the end-of-year fundraising campaign in the 2nd week of November; (No later than November 9, 2020)
  2. Especially, now that there is a slowdown in mail delivery in the US.

Here is a word of warning from fundraising expert, Pamala Grow, about stories of US postal mail slowdown: 

“In my region of the suburbs of Philadelphia, some towns are reporting no mail delivery for up to five days. And when I asked friends on Facebook whether they were seeing signs of a slowdown in mail delivery, most reported that they had. Only two had seen no change. 

One friend of mine, who is an executive director of a small community nonprofit in California reported “Mail is definitely slow. Had 2 donors contact me that checks were returned — address undeliverable. We’ve been there 14 years!!”

What can you do to ensure that you have your most successful year-end campaign ever? Read more.

Year-End Appeal Email Samples

 
year-end-appeal-letter-sample

 

A Lesson: Direct mail year end appeals should always be followed up with email.

  • Online giving is on the rise. A look at year over year changes shows an overall increase of 1.2% over the last 12 months. As various factors continue to impact different sub-sectors in unique ways, organizations should also monitor trends in their sub-sector.   (Source: Blackbaud Index of 2020 Quarterly Charitable Giving.)
  • Emails read urgency. Also because emails at the end of the year take on a special urgency.

So, now the question becomes: How many fundraising emails should a charity send at the end of the year?

Answer: Four (at least). Yep, that struck me as a big number, too. But research proves it works.

end-of-year-appeal

Send first end of year appeal email one week before the direct mail drop date during the week of November 2. This is called priming your donors, so they are more open to your messages.

Then, send the second email during the week of November 26.

Year-end Appeal Email Sample #1

From: International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)

end-of-year-appeal-email-sample-ifaw
 

Year-end Appeal Email Sample #2

From: Paws + Claws

year-end-appeal

Year-end Appeal Email Sample #3

From: Heart House Hospice

year-end-appeal

The Next Steps

  1. Send an email to your donors that can also be used on other social media platforms.
  2. Send the third email close to or on Giving Tuesday: December 1,
  3. Ask donors to give on Giving Tuesday.
  4. Send the final email close to December 27. 12% if all giving happens in the last three days of the year.
  5. A final reminder to donate.

What Needs To Happen Between Now And The Drop Date

Apply for a postal Indicia form USPS or Canada Post (contact to your USPS or Canada Post Sales Rep. for help). This will cut your postage cost in half. 

The minimum amount you need to mail is 100 pieces to qualify for a postal Indicia. This will allow you to mail to the largest segment of donors on your house list.

Why Use Multi-Channel Appeals for Year-end Campaign

Sending a year-end appeal letter, along with a series year-end appeal emails is going to provide the best results. As shown below, older donors give the most through multichannel appeals.

Donor Retention Rates

 

AGE ONLINE ONLY OFFLINE ONLY MULTICHANNEL
18 – 24 19% 24% 50%
25 – 34 22% 25% 55%
35 – 44 21% 24% 54%
45 – 54 21% 24% 52%
55 – 64 22% 26% 58%
65 – 74 24% 29% 62%
75+ 26% 26% 59%
(Source: Blackbaud Target Analytics donorCentric Benchmarking)

 

Additional Year-End Fundraising Campaign Channels

If your resources allow, you might also consider adding these to your year-end campaign:  

  • Website – Create a dedicated page
  • Social media – Use your Facebook page to attract more donors to your nonprofit
  • Online advertising – Google allows you to create ads for free

Let’s dive into each of these a little further.

Website

Your website is already the most efficient member of your development staff. It never sleeps, never takes a paycheck, but at the end of the year, your website needs special attention in sync with the year end appeal launch, so, you need either to: 

  • Create a new dedicated webpage content that reinforces and expands upon your campaign concept, or
  • Create a unique landing page on your website.
  • Create a unique donation form. Make sure it integrates with the nonprofit CRM, like Sumac’s embedded donation forms

Social Media

Social Media allows you to reach supporters who prove to be most share-worthy, so they can spread your end of year appeal message. Propose creating a video to add to Facebook and other social media sites.

Online Advertising

Need help funding a digital ad campaign to support your year-end fundraising campaign? Check out: Google Ad Grants for Nonprofits: Everything You Need to Know.

Suggested Year-End Fundraising Campaign Schedule

Direct Mail: Start by obtaining postal indicia and with creative concepts in first week of October so that approval and final files can be accomplished by early November.

Emails: Simultaneously plan for the 4 emails so that they are ready to drop by the proposed dates.

Website: Consider creating a dedicated page once the Creative has been finalized in October

Social Media: Consider adding a video once the Creative concept has been finalized in October. Here below are two examples.

Final Piece of Advice: Make Giving Feel Good

Charities can strengthen the emotional reward of impulsive giving by reducing the delay between the donation and the positive feelings it produces. Charities should immediately and vividly show donors the effect of their gift.

LiveOnNY gave three former military casualty notification officers the opportunity to deliver a different kind of news. Watch the video.

An organ donor organization teamed up with the local police who gave those motorists, who were caught for any minor offences, no ticket if they were organ donors because they as organ donors had pledged to give others a second chance in life. Watch here.

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