Leverage Technology to Optimize your Year-end appeal

by Kevin Martone, Technology Program Manager, JCamp 180

You've written a fantastic appeal letter and sent it out to your donors, alumni, parents, and other prospects. Finished, right? Not yet. You should leverage technology to make your end-of-year appeal even more effective.

Get your Online Giving Form in Shape

Hopefully you offer online giving on your website. And remembered to include the link on your appeal letter. The number of people who go online to donate after receiving a solicitation letter in the mail is growing fast - make it as easy as possible for them.

Your online asks will also direct people right to your online giving form. Make sure your form is optimized to receive gifts. Test your form yourself to make sure it is easy to find on your website and easy to give. Looking for tips for improving your form? Check out our online giving best practices.  You can find more tips for things to do (or not to do!) on our review of camp online donation forms.

Get the Word Out!

Yes, many of your supporters will receive your appeal letter in the mail and dutifully write a check. But many others will never see the letter because they aren't on your mailing lists or barely check their mailbox. Others might need another nudge to remind them to send in a check or give online. That's where online communications channels come in.

You should create an email campaign that connects to the story in the direct mail appeal. With email you have even more flexibility - you can change the story and ask based on the audience. For example, you can segment the list to send alumni one email solicitation and current parents a different email. And because email is "free" you can send timely reminders throughout the last couple of months of the year.

Don't forget social media! At a minimum, post a link to your online donation form from Facebook, Twitter, and other social media channels. But you can do so much more with social media. How about asking donors to post that they gave (along with a link to your donation form) on their own Facebook and Twitter profiles? People are more likely to give when asked by a peer than an organization.

You can also post updates about your campaign on social media channels. Let people know how many of their peers have already given. And let them know how much more is needed. Make your posts fun - use visuals and stories to engage your audience.

How about asking your donors for testimonials about why they give to your camp? These can be shared on Facebook, Twitter, and even via email to make your online appeal more personal.

Be creative. Think about content that your audience would be interested in reading, commenting on, and sharing with their friends.

Use Your Database

Your donor database is a treasure trove of information if used effectively. Your most likely donors are those who have given in the past. You can run a report in your database for LYBUNTS (donors who gave last year but unfortunately haven't given this year) and send them a very specific reminder email. If the list is small they could even receive a phone call. This group is the most likely to give this year if asked. And if you can get someone to be a repeat donor, their lifetime giving to your organization will increase dramatically.

You can also track the success of your appeal vs. your goals with well-designed reports from your database. Regular analysis of your campaign will help you decide if another email reminder is necessary or if your existing plan is working effectively. Your database can help ensure you won't be caught by surprise by the results of your campaign when it is too late to do anything about it.

Provide Timely Thank You's

Hopefully you'll receive so many gifts during the year-end period that you begin to feel a bit overwhelmed. That's a good problem to have!

But you must be sure to thank your donors quickly during this period. You can use your database to quickly pull lists of new gifts and merge those lists with a warm, sincere thank you letter.

Remember that your donors will also want a timely receipt for tax purposes. Your database should allow you to easily pull a list of all donations so you can send your donors the paperwork they need…in addition to your thank you letters.

Don't sit back and relax when your appeal letter is out the door. That is the time to do all you can to make sure you get the support your camp needs at year-end.