Tom Ahern, a dear friend and Bloomerang’s Communications Coach recently released a free downloadable eBook that can literally change your charity’s donor communications forever. More importantly, for many nonprofit organizations the level of funding for your mission could be increased significantly based upon the knowledge gained and the best practices implemented!
Reading the booklet, answering the questions yourself, and comparing your answers to those Tom has assembled based upon the best research in the nonprofit sector could be the best 15-30 minutes you and your team spend in preparing for your year end fundraising appeals and thank you processes!
Let’s preview four of my favorites and see how your answers compare to what the research says:
What is the best length for a fundraising letter?
Answer: 4 Pages
This will surprise many.
We hear over and over how hard a fundraising professional or a fundraising committee works to edit down a letter to a single perfect page or two. Perhaps armed with this research, both of these entities will now know it is better to tell a complete story with numerous calls to action.
Please keep in mind, length is always playing second fiddle to the overall quality of the letter. A poorly written letter will perform poorly no matter what the number of pages are. It is just that a longer well written letter does better than a short one. Check the research.
What is the preferred grade level for a direct mail appeal?
Answer: 6th Grade Level
This may just be my favorite answer from Tom’s list of 20!
This answer is part of a key feature in Bloomerang affectionately referred to as the “Ahern Audit™,” which allows every user to verify reading grade levels for all written and electronic communications. When it is presented during demos or when I ask during conference presentations what grade level performs best with donors and prospective donors the answers are almost always much higher.
When we explain, as Tom does so eloquently, that even college professors prefer to scan or skim donor communications before digging in to understand, more light bulbs go off in the mind of the professional fundraisers listening.
We encourage you to try and see what happens.
What kind of household is most likely to leave a bequest to a charity?
Answer: Middle Class
This is one of my favorites because I have seen over and over the immense impact bequests can have on funding any charity’s mission. I have also seen how little attention is paid to mentioning bequests as a preferred method of giving, as well as actually soliciting them by small and medium size charities.
Perhaps there is not a comfort level in knowledge regarding various forms of bequests. We have also heard fundraisers say this may be too personal to discuss with donors. Let’s explore each reason now that we know from Tom and industry research that our largest cross section of donors, the middle class, are most likely to make a bequest.
In most cases, only a basic knowledge of the various types of bequests is required. Almost always, there will be one or more estate planning professionals involved. One from the donor’s side, and if you are planning ahead, a board member or two from your charity you were alert enough to ask to serve on your board. They will do the heavy lifting, if any is even required since most bequests consist of simply being named in the will.
Secondly, most loyal donors, who have been giving to your organization for multiple years are already looking for methods to allow them to fund more of your mission.
The key is to enable a discussion with only such loyal donors versus discussing it individually with less loyal or even brand new donors. A good rule of thumb is at least 3 years of giving, and perhaps focusing in on those households where the giving has risen over time.
Who is the real hero in fundraising appeals, newsletters and websites, etc.?
Answer: The Donor
Just like my personal favorite number two above regarding the grade reading level, making the donor the focus of any communications is the other key feature in Bloomerang’s “Ahern Audit™.”
Most of you reading this will recognize it as the “YOU TEST.”
It is simply counting the number of pronouns in your communications and striving for at least a 2-1 ratio of “You’s” versus “I’s” or “We’s.”
This places the funding of your mission by the donor as the very reason of most, if not all, of your donor communications. This allows deep rooted thanks and donor appreciation to be felt by new donors, as well as repeat donors. Such deep rooted appreciation is key to multi-year giving, recurring giving and eventual bequest giving.
You now know my four personal favorites. What are yours?
Thank you Tom for assembling such a remarkable bit of donor communication knowledge that can be absorbed in a short time period. This may not be a Masters Degree in donor communications, however I personally would consider it an excellent entrance exam for such a degree.
I know you, as well as the large team of professionals at Bloomerang, hope your new eBook enables the beginning of a new wave of improved and much more effective year of donor communications.