A Better Year End Fundraising Letter.

Charles Stanford @flickrAre you a missionary who needs year end gifts?  Your year end fundraising letter is key.

If you haven’t already, you will be sending out your last letter of the year, praying that the response will provide the needed funds.

It can feel like a lot is riding on that one letter.

How one letter can result in action.

Clearly state what you are asking for.  Your reader shouldn’t have to guess or work hard to figure out what you want them to do with the letter.  This may seem obvious – but don’t forget to clearly ask for what you want.

My guess is that you plan on sending out a few hundred letters.  Pick a bunch of them to send a hand-written letter to instead.  When was the last time you threw out a handwritten letter you received?  You probably can’t hand write 200 letters in the next few days, but you can do at least ten.

Make your letter scan-able.  Hold your letter at arm’s length.  Can you tell what it’s about?  Or, does your letter look “grey,” just a block of text.  So make your letter concise.  Ruthlessly cut out unnecessary words and sentences.

Emphasize the strategic impact.  A story of one changed life is getting tired.  Not only is it tough to keep that concise, but it doesn’t show how your ministry is strategic.  Instead of one changed life, show the potential (or actual!) impact on thousands.

Give a tangible reason why the funds are needed.  A deficit on a spreadsheet is not tangible.  Instead, state what project or equipment the funds are for.

What results can you show from this year?

Bad ideas for your year end fundraising letter.

There are some fundraising tactics that can get more dollars, but I don’t recommend them.  Remember, you will be raising funds for the duration of your missionary career, and you want a certain type of ministry partner.  Some of the following tactics are more likely to result in the types of partners you don’t want.

Do not:

Pressure the reader with the deadline of December 31stThat “ticking clock” may psychologically result  in more responses – but you want a joyful partner who gives regularly.

Give a gift in exchange for the financial gift.  This obviously works to some degree.  That’s why charities and non-profits often give gifts in exchange for large donations.  However, I prefer to leave God in charge of the rewards.  How will I decide which partners to give a gift to?  There are accounts when the ministry partners have returned the gift because it felt wrong to them.  Simply express your gratitude with a thank you letter, not a gift.

Send the letter to those you don’t know.  Most people will receive a deluge of mail seeking a donation at the end of the year.  Your letter won’t get attention from strangers.  Save the postage.

Play on regret.  Psychological studies have shown that people are motivated to avoid regret, even in completely irrational ways.  However, leave out the guilt trip.  If people don’t stop reading your future letters because of how it makes them feel, your letters will make them joyless givers.

Do you want to stop the year end fundraising letters?

My guess is that you don’t want to have to rely on many gifts right at the end of the year.  What can you do to avoid this in the future?

Expand your contacts.  Ask those who receive your email or newsletter to share it with others.

Send a newsletter or prayer email once per month.  Nobody wants to hear from you when you only need money.  Regular updates demonstrate your  faithfulness.  It implicitly makes the case throughout the year as to why they should support you.

Follow up with those who give one time gifts.  Ask them to consider giving on a monthly basis.

Add some supporting churches.  Adding just one or two churches can make a huge impact in so many ways.  I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but Be a Fully Funded Missionary is the resource to give you the steps to do this.


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