7 Quick Tips for End of the Year Fundraising: Keep it Simple, Make it Personal, Give Me Proof


What do you have to crow about?

Photo by Giovanni

Here is a simple list of suggestions for communicating with your supporters during the holiday season.

Each e-mail I’ve received recently asking for funding or additional support gets analyzed and checked off in my internal do/don’t list. My list is below. What’s on yours?

The number one thing to remember while we are doing organizational planning for press releases, grants, and fundraising campaigns is to keep in mind is that we are speaking directly to another person– not an organization, not a position, but a person.

What You Can Expect From This Post

Here are 7 short and sweet tips for end of the year fundraising.

  1. Be brief
  2. Add value to my life
  3. Talk to me
  4. Tell me a story
  5. Use images
  6. Give me proof
  7. Don’t make me work for it

Photo by DvortyGirl

1. Be Brief

  • DO keep it to one screen on e-mail, no scrolling (this can be a real challenge)
  • DO use borders and easy to read font
  • DO use color, bolding, and scannable text

2. Add Value to My Life

  • DO make my click-through to your e-mail from my inbox worth more effort than the click I could have used to delete it
  • DO tell me why you’re writing: the holiday season is a start, but it doesn’t differentiate you from anyone else
  • DO have a reason for writing and make that come through in the e-mail– I shouldn’t have to think about it
  • DO make your e-mail worth reading by giving me information I need to know about your organization
  • DON’T tell me about your new tax status– that’s not going to swing me one way or the other. Wait until I’m more committed to divulge the details. Would you tell a date your medical history the second time you had dinner? This is an internal matter to share after a commitment
  • DON’T tell me about an event you didn’t invite me to

3. Talk to Me

  • DO talk to me like a valued friend and supporter
  • DO tell me why I should want to continue and deepen our relationship
  • DO give me a personal sense of who you are
  • DO sign your name to the e-mail with contact information and your position title so that I am talking to a person and not an entity
  • DO personalize your e-mail mailings as much as possible– even if you have to take some extra time or money to break it down by region, interest, or value, it’s worth the extra investment
  • DO make me more than a number on your organizational chart and in turn I will make you more than an e-mail in my inbox
  • DO think about how you can make me a stakeholder and DO make me want to become one
  • DO use a catchy title in the subject line and DO label appropriately
  • DON’T make it feel like direct mail

4. Tell Me a Story


  • DO give it to me person to person by connecting me with your story
  • DO give me a best practice example or something you are proud of this year
  • DO tell me something of value that I can repeat to others to promote you: a story, an anecdote, a tip, a whisper of advice
  • DO make me proud to support and be connected to your organization
  • DO give me a reason to keep reading your e-mail from start to finish
  • DO make me think about you for the rest of the day

Photo by Giovanni

5. Use Images

  • DO attract my attention with images that represent your organization
  • DO use the images you provide to emotionally engage me as a supporter (learn more about this in the Recommended Reading section below)
  • DO do your best to appear tech savvy in your design to inspire my confidence in your competence overall
  • DO integrate the text and images in your e-mail as fluidly as possible
  • DO have the appearance of your communication reflect your organization’s branding campaign as a whole

6. Give Me Proof

  • DO tell me what you accomplished this year and make me feel proud to be part of it
  • DO provide quantitative as well as qualitative measurements
  • DO consider using quotes from credible industry sources– but put them at the end of the e-mail or in a sidebar
  • DO offer click-throughs to your website for more information, including graphics– and DO make that click count

Photo by Thomas Roche

7. Don’t Make Me Work For It

  • DO give me a full picture of what I need to know about your programming and priorities– sure, I’m a supporter, but I may need to be reminded of the details
  • DO give me teasers for what’s coming up next
  • DO make me forward your e-mail to a colleague as a best practice model and DO make me bookmark it in Delicious
  • DO make me think about your programming and look forward to the next communication

Okay, so maybe it wasn’t so quick, but I hope it was useful.

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2 Responses to 7 Quick Tips for End of the Year Fundraising: Keep it Simple, Make it Personal, Give Me Proof

  1. Ian says:

    I think another way of saying it is the applicant needs to create a personal narrative that contributes to and coincides with the organizational goals and guidelines. A personal narrative indicates the applicant is guided by a higher purpose, beyond self-interest. We live in a time where personal interest overrides public interest, so hopefully philanthropy won’t go the same way, setting its sights too low to do the most good. History is the collective voice of personal narratives that determine the future. Philanthropy should be guided by the heroic, going outside of history to place it back on its right and proper path.

  2. Ian says:

    In our post-modern world, a personal narrative is a thing in itself, an insular version of reality, self-defined, as a form of meta-individualism. This is why so much greed in the financial sector could be so rampant. Post-modernism said that we define our own reality, make our own reality. We will look back in a few years and ask ourselves how it ever happened, how we ever lost track and abandoned responsibility. Those who were considered idealistic were seen as naive and docile, when in fact, they are the true patriots that kept the faith and didn’t abandon hope. Those of us who saw the economic disaster coming have wandered in the wilderness for the best part of the last thirty years, and we may be have been seen as mad, but were in fact remnants of a lost but better world. Those of us who didn’t think the Mall was the temple of the new religion will lead the way to a return to normality and a brighter day.

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