A Brilliant Holiday Fundraising Letter that Generated 875% ROI

This holiday appeal was created by Haven Toronto (Formerly The Good Neighbour’s Club) and the results were amazing! We hope it will inspire you to think outside the box this year.

The Card Inside

Holiday Fundraising Letter

The Letter

Holiday Fundraising Letter

The Results

One of the key elements that made this appeal so successful, was that it asked donors to respond. The result: this piece generated enough funds to feed 2,810 homeless men. It achieved a ROI of over 847% and raised twice the amount as the previous year. And, best of all, it got some great feedback from donors:

Holiday Fundraising Letter

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Two very good reasons to write a holiday appeal

  1. A recent survey by Leger Marketing reported that more than half (62%) of Canadian said they would donate to a charity over the upcoming holidays.
  2. In the latest survey by “Ask Your Target Market,” 38% of those who donate to charity said that they are more likely to do so during the holiday season. 12% said they are less likely to make charity donations during the holiday season. And 50% said they are just as likely to donate during the holiday season as they are during the rest of the year.

Tips for writing a successful holiday appeal

  1. Remember you will be competing with every other charity so consider a different size envelope than a standard No. 10 envelope to stand out from the others. An invitational or a 5” X 7” envelope will not cost you much more in postage then a No 10 envelope.
  2. Starting an appeal letter is like starting a conversation. You’re breaking the silence. Some hints:a) Keep it short—long run-on sentences are daunting;b) Try to include the word “you.” Remember the WIIFM rule: what’s in it for me?c) Arouse interest at the start—you have a few seconds to capture your reader’s interest, e.g. “Jonny is going to see his Dad today. And he is terrified.”
  3. Make the letter as personable as possible. It’s a conversation so it should be full of “you” and “our” and “we” and “your”.
  4. Tell a story; give some new news. That has the strongest reader appeal.
  5. Make your letter easy to read. Write with a warm and personable voice. Double spacing helps legibility.
  6. Add a sense of urgency. Even informing your donors that this is a special year-end package adds a sense of some urgency and prompts them to act.
  7. Acknowledge and thank them for their past support, e.g. Because of friends like you, we have been able to provide…
  8. Get the reader involved. Prompt them to do something…
  9. Nudge your donors to give a bit more. Start the giving ladder with their last donation amount and give them higher options.
  10. Show what each amount will accomplish. Showing what each amount can accomplish gives them a sense of what their donations can do.
  11. Present a problem (bad news) but balance it with how it can be solved with the donor’s support (good news). Bad news raises more funds than good news. Newromarketers even have a name for this phenomenon; they call it “counterfactual reflection”. According to them the reason it works is because just like in the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, it shows how businessman George Bailey shifts from despair to intense motivation when an angel intervenes to show him how much worse off his town would have been without him. Most of us don’t have a guardian angel named Clarence to show us alternative histories, but it turns out that imagining a what-if scenario is a powerful tool in fundraising.
  12. Don’t forget the P.S., It’s your final plea for action. More than half the people read the postscript.


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