Every institution is in a perfect position to communicate with their supporters at this time of year. Despite the heavy schedule of ongoing holiday and year-end activities, people are energetic and enthusiastic at this time of year. They are thoughtful, introspective and open to suggestions. They are happy and grateful and in the best of spirits.
Combine this holiday spirit with the year-end tax planning that many people carryout and you have the perfect time to reach out to your supporters. Now is the best time to both thank them and open their eyes to the possibilities—the many ways they can change the lives of people in need.
Every institution has a distinctive mission and a different means of achieving their goals, but surely the year-end letter can be used effectively by any non-profit organization, which is dependent upon charitable giving. The letter may have a different theme at each institution, but the most effective letters are going to contain certain important points.
Points that should be made in almost every institution are these: thank them for their help and financial support and provide some examples of how their financial commitments have made an impact, summarize the year’s accomplishments, outline the exciting opportunities and challenges you face in the coming year and encourage each supporter to do there very best to help. Finally, and most importantly, ask the supporter for a specific gift (the amount of the request depends upon the level of their previous giving) and relate that amount to some specific service, help or tangible means of support.
It is very helpful to speak in terms that enable people to visualize their participation. “With your gift of $500 you will provide a holiday meal and Christmas presents for five families of four people (two adults and two children) who will spend the night in our shelter.” “With your thoughtful contribution of $1,000, you will ensure that every child that enters our emergency department will be cared for in the same professional manner, regardless of their ability to pay.” “If you will consider a gift of $25,000, it will help ensure that two more children receive a high quality education, regardless of their economic background. This aid-blind admission policy is the end-game in every enlightened society.”
You may also want to include other information, but I would keep this communication brief, exciting and challenging! Other helpful information you may want to include:
- Gifts of appreciated property may have added tax advantages; consult with your tax advisor for details.
- People making gifts in December get the deduction in this tax year, versus next year.
- Highlight the special contributions of some of your top leaders and major contributors. We can never say “Thank You” enough.
- Mention any important events scheduled for early next year and encourage them to save dates.
- Enclose a return addressed envelope.
At this point, you should wrap things up by wishing them a happy holiday season and close your letter.
David G. Phillips is president of Custom Development Solutions, Inc. CDS is among the most sought after fundraising consulting firms specializing in the strategic planning and tactical execution of capital campaigns for non-profits throughout the United States and Canada. If you have a fundraising question for David, please call 800-761-3833 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.