Your opening line has a BIG impact on how your donors react and feel.

Notice, I didn’t start with, “How WE open OUR year-end messages…” or “The Artful Asker has a tremendous success record of year end giving results…”

Why?

It’s all about you.

It’s NOT about me.  It’s not about my company.

Sure…WE accomplish things together.  Sure, my MORE Major Gifts workshop propels folks to greater major giving success. Yep, my VIP clients raise millions working with me. Indeed, my Dream-Act-Achieve Coaching clients are happier and more productive! Blah, Blah, Blah. You don’t want to be sold. Neither do your donors.

It’s all about you.

How you show up to embrace these most generous months will determine your year-end results.  Talk TO your givers, not AT them. This is about your year-end letters and emails, annual reports, and impact brochures. Whatever you send…beginning now.

Before you begin… remember, the OUTSIDE of the envelope or SUBJECT line has to make it past the garbage and delete key.

You will enjoy these 10 tips for annual appeal letters! 

Then you will get to readGenerosity with hands an actual sample piece I’ve reworked to show you what I mean.

1.    The very first sentence needs to be directed to YOU and the very first paragraph needs to say it all. Really.

It may well be all they read.

2.    Your core message is only 4-5 sentences and bolded.

In a nutshell, what is your message?

  • You are important to us for your partnership and support.
  • Your giving has an impact. Thank you.
  • Yes, there is more to do.
  • Would you consider a gift now?
  • PS Big hug moment. Would you consider a gift now?

If you just read the bolded sentences, it should read like a mini-piece within the larger piece,  hang together and make sense.  The bolded sentences are all many will read…after the first line, or in place of the first line.

3.    Read whatever you write OUT LOUD.

How does it flow? If you stumble or gasp for breath reading it – shorten the sentences, use easier words to read. (That doesn’t mean dumbing it down)

4.    Use whatever length you need to tell the story.

There are successful, informative 4-page appeal letters BUT they are engaging and YOU-focused top to bottom.  I think it’s hard to write so I generally stick with one page.

5.    “Join me” flows from the signatory’s lips.

If the piece needs a signature, (appeal letter, message in year-end report, etc) the person signing this needs to be someone who can invite their giving from a place of giving too. It’s that simple.  Probably not the ED, Pastor, CEO. Who can say, “Join me in giving.”

6.    PS is your place for action and emotion

PS Only the first $10,000 in gifts received will be matched. Double your impact, now!

PS My wife, Julie, and I give because we so believe in these young people. Prayerfully consider joining us with your gift now so we can bring more students into the Chapel.

PS You can stop the hurting. Join us with your gift yet this year.

7.    Pictures still say 1000 words

Find great ones and make this as BIG as possible!

8.    ASK or THANK – not both

Have a single purpose for your correspondence. While you can always be grateful, when you are asking, ASK.  When you are saying, “Thank you”, don’t have your hand out for more. The donor deserves to have at least 3 pure thanks touches before you ask again.

9.    Make it easy to givemake it easy

Hire help to make it all work on the back end if you have to – make it easy to send in, press the button, whatever.

10.  REPEAT…and repeat….and repeat

Yes, even if it feels like it is too much.  Do it anyway, We are a society of second and third chances. We hit delete expecting it will come around again. We toss it thinking there will be another.

And Now…thanks for Nancy Gerard for letting me use her piece to launch the next phase of the campaign as an example.

Continuing the Mission…

The next stretch for success! 

We are delighted to report success in surpassing our first fundraising goal of $12 million for the Continuing the Mission initiative that was established in 2015!

Our goal was to raise funding for facilities, student support and program enhancements for Georgia-Cumberland Academy that would set this school on solid footing and prepare us for a bright future.  Now, three years into this initiative, our hearts are bursting with joy as we see what God has done through people like you and through the support of the Georgia-Cumberland Conference, foundations, and businesses.

Because of you we were able to dedicate and officially open the new Wally Fox Wellness Center, which includes a new large gym, cafeteria, classroom and fitness facilities.  Because of you, students are up early working out and improving their personal fitness.  Because of you we are able to host large events in our new gymnasium.  Because of you, students and staff are enjoying healthy meals in our new dining commons.  Because of you, groups are able to meet to accomplish important work in the new private dining room.

But we aren’t done yet!

As we take this Next Stretch for Success, we seek donors like you who are interested in naming opportunities to fund the completion of our new facilities and renovations of the existing spaces.

In our Next Stretch for Success, we will look for partners like you to help us reach our goals to fully fund the additional scholarships and endowments we need.

Finally, the Next Stretch for Success will find us seeking those who are interested in providing funding for strong, cutting edge programs such as sports, music, student life and campus ministries.

Thank you for partnering with us in the Next Stretch for Success!   

rewrite  Here’s Marcy’s Rewrite…

Continuing the Mission…

The next stretch for success! 

Thanks to you our first fundraising goal of $12 million for the Continuing the Mission initiative has been passed!

In 2015, you challenged us to set GCA on solid footing and prepare us for a bright future. To accomplish this we embraced a big vision to raise funds for facilities, student support and program enhancements. Now, three years into this initiative, our hearts are bursting with joy as we see what God has done through people like you and through the support of the Georgia-Cumberland Conference, foundations, and businesses.

Because of you we were able to dedicate and officially open the new Wally Fox Wellness Center, which includes a new large gym, cafeteria, classroom and fitness facilities.  Because of you, students are up early working out and improving their personal fitness.  Because of you we are able to host large events in our new gymnasium.  Because of you, students and staff are enjoying healthy meals in our new dining commons.  Because of you, groups are able to meet to accomplish important work in the new private dining room.

Because of you, our Next Stretch for Success is possible!

As we take this Next Stretch for Success, partners like you interested in naming opportunities will fund the completion of our new facilities and renovations of the existing spaces.

In this Next Stretch for Success, partners like you will help fully fund the additional scholarships and endowments needed for our students to experience GCA.

And, in this the Next Stretch for Success partners like you will invest in funding for strong, cutting edge programs important to you, such as sports, music, student life and campus ministries.

Thank you! We have every confidence that God will stir our hearts as we take this Next Stretch for Success together! 

Get writing!  I’ll share some emails next time.

Invest in JOY®

  

 

Marcy Heim is a trusted authority in the development profession and helps organizations and educational institutions boost their major gift programs through artful, long-term relationship building that dramatically increases fundraising success while promoting increased staff job satisfaction. To receive a free chapter from Marcy’s book, Empower Your Board to Serve as Effective Development Ambassadors, click here.

Questions:  Contact KK Konicek at KK@MarcyHeim.com

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Professor Mike Leckrone, 82, is completing his 50th year directing the Marcy Trumpet with Prof MikeUniversity of Wisconsin Marching Band. He shared his plans with humor. “My doctors said I needed to slow down… so I’m looking for new doctors.” For most of my undergrad years the band was not open to women. Sensing this was Mike’s last year directing, I was determined to fulfill a life-long goal and be a part of it – even if only for a few hours on the practice field enrolled as a ‘special student.’ No matter if you’re 18 or 80 getting into the band is based on mastering the unique marching style, endurance, musicianship AND how far above 100% you push.

Professor Leckrone knows my fundraising for the band endowment, as a band donor myself and jumping at his invitation to sing in his famous Varsity Band Concert (you can see it here).

Mike said, “You can’t have fun without excellence!” to more than 350 returning and prospective band members, me among them, after the 4th day of the rigorous try-outs.  Now let me connect the dots on how this applies to your Year-End fundraising.  Your year-end results CAN be fun to achieve…but only with excellence in planning and execution.Planning

1. Get ahead of the (football) game.

Mike is creating his football shows MONTHS ahead. The band is over-prepared and early for everything.

My clients have heard this since mid-August.  I get really riled up this time of year.  Why?  Because I KNOW that if we just start THINKING about Year-End NOW we will have both more fun and better results.

NOW is the TIME to start thinking and planning for Year-End.

You know it is coming. And I will promise you there will be hiccups to deal with along the way.

Ask….

  • What can I do NOW to make everything flow more smoothly?
  • What went well last year?
  • What was a complete panic where I said, “NEVER AGAIN!”
  • Did I ever feel bad about my family last year…(sigh)?

Stop. Reflect. Think. NOW.

Right now go to your calendar and set aside 1-2 hours with your laptop or a yellow pad and just remember last year.

  • Were you frantic to get important year-end major donor appointments?
  • Did you pay extra to get the year-end letters printed and mailed?
  • Was there a big typo in a year-end email?
  • Were you running like crazy to be ready to celebrate Rosh Hashanah last week?
  • Were you wrapping Christmas gifts at 2 am the night before Christmas?
  • Did you fall asleep at the Thanksgiving table?

When you get a head start

I am talking your WHOLE life – not just your work.  Do a full brain dump onto a piece of paper or into a word doc. I used to groan loudly and say, “Why do these stupid stores have Halloween out already?” They are helping you get going and you need to start NOW. At this writing, my house is decorated for Halloween.  NO candy yet – it would be consumed by Halloween, but I will enjoy these decorations for 2 full months.

2. Draft your 3 KEY Messages and overall theme.

Whenever someone hears your organization’s name…what do they think?

What do you WANT them to think?

Theme:

“Investing in tomorrow’s leaders with XYZ yields big dividends.”

Key messages:

“Our participants rise above self-doubt.”

“Our graduates change health care and science literacy in their communities.”

“Your giving supports 1287 participants in 32 counties just like Joe from Mayville (his story).”

I know you are supposed to create your overall theme first, but I think FIRST write up your 3 KEY MESSAGES and they will lead you to the overall theme.  Then pick the theme, colors, photos, etc for everything.  Get everyone together and have a blast doing this. (Wine helps)

3. Relationship Building

Professor Leckrone has 50 years of UW students, band members (some multi-generation), band families, 80,000+ fans at the football games, athletic partners, band concert attendees most of whom he has inspired in person. Sure, he has a zillion likes on Facebook, but that’s never used to REPLACE personal connections – only enhance them.

NOW…make a list of every potential major donor visit you want to have between now and December 15th.  Call, text, write, all of these folks – NOW.  Your message?  “This happened today (10 word story) and it made me think of you and how much we appreciate you.”  For those prospective major donors you must see prior to year-end say, “I promise to be in touch again to set up some time for us to get together before the year is through.”  Your next call is, “Remember I promised to be in touch….”  This one thing will make you SO much more comfortable setting up your year-end donor visits.  Alternately, you don’t do anything now and you feel like a money-grubber in a panic calling in November and December for that year-end gift.  You are kicking yourself for not reaching out SOMEHOW.  Do it now.

Take the same action for your annual appeal work.  “Giving Tuesday – Hold the date now!”  “Look for how you can be a part of our annual Work-Study program success – you’ll get a letter in November.”  “Like the last minute to give? (13% of all donors do!) Look for 3 amazing stories to wrap up the last three days of your year with us.”

4. Show Appreciation

Professor Leckrone talks about everyone else who has made the band great — the Athletic Department, parents, Professors, fans….constantly giving specific examples of how THEY supported the band and shared Badger Spirit.  In reality, Mike makes the band great and sometimes these very groups get in the way of the band’s success.  Mike makes them ALL PARTNERS in the success of the band.

For your most MAJOR DONORS, ask, “What can I do so you really understand just how much I appreciate you?”  They will tell you and they will enjoy the question.  Listen and do it.

Think of creating a steady stream of appreciation….involving as many others as possible all with a single focus – expressing sincere and specific thanks – with NO ASK!

Phone calls from your board, staff, volunteers and recipients…Script this.  “Thank you…I am simply calling to say, “Thank you for sharing the vision, values and goals of XYZ.”  Shut up and hang up. NO ask!

heart

Mail a postcard. Send an email.  THANKS with NO ASKS!  Just results of giving.  Just impact of giving. Just the JOY OF GIVING!  This is FUN!

Thank your family and close friends.   Wish them well for the holidays.

5. Block your time NOW

Marching Band practice is 3-5 pm every day during football season…plus some extra for music rehearsals.  When you are in the band, you block off ALL this time and then get everything else done around it.

Time to planAs you approach year-end, block off your time now for MAJOR GIFT SUCCESS!  Here’s how.

1. For larger organizations – get the plan together TOGETHER!

2. When you juggle many things…..MOST time for your major gift calls.

3. WRITE ALL YOUR YEAR-END MAJOR GIFT ASKS BEFORE OCT 1st!  If you don’t know what to ask for, write your best guess and get an appointment to test your ask.

4. Take off for the most important family traditions, school shows with the kids, etc.

5. Who do you need with you on your calls? Connect with them and get open dates to use in setting up visits.

6. Schedule work blocks to create postcards, appeal letters, and year-end emails.  Share for input as needed but remember…YOU are the development professional!   Do these in the order they need to launch.  Delegate whenever possible.  Remember – simple, clear, direct. NO jargon. Few we’s and I’s.

6. Define Excellence!

Notice that excellence is NOT perfection.  Seeking perfection stymies our productivity.  Embrace the notion that it is “good enough.”  (This took me forever to grasp – seemed like failure somehow.)

Does it help the giver make the giving decision that will bring them joy?

Do you make it easy to give?

Do you give them a second and third chance? (It’s a busy time you know!)

Have you made your own gift joyfully?

Excellence is doing those things well that add to your results.  It is NOT doing Make things much betterthe newest, latest greatest thing. It is not doing everything. It is resisting those “distractions” that everyone is talking about.

You can’t have fun without excellence.  A small shift in your thinking will yield big results.  YOU can have fun this year-end and experience excellent success.  I believe it for you.  And when you believe, you’ll be believed!

Invest in JOY®

  

 

Marcy Heim is a trusted authority in the development profession and helps organizations and educational institutions boost their major gift programs through artful, long-term relationship building that dramatically increases fundraising success while promoting increased staff job satisfaction. To receive a free chapter from Marcy’s book, Empower Your Board to Serve as Effective Development Ambassadors, click here.

Questions:  Contact KK Konicek at KK@MarcyHeim.com

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Wanna Do EVERYTHING Better?

August 22, 2018

Do you agree there’s magic in Three’s? The research will support you on this.  Going to the store for three things?  You say them to yourself. Ok. Four?  Probably need to write a list. There is something “doable” and memorable about three. This is important to understand in both your major gift development work…and your […]

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Four Tips to Finding Fulfillment in Fundraising!

August 8, 2018

You could feel the excitement as the dots connected at my MORE Major Gifts workshop! Artful relationship management! YES! This class, for the first time, contained a Board President, Director of Development and Development Assistant – all from the same organization!   You can be sure they will meet a massive year-end matching challenge after attending […]

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Your 3rd Quarter Vision. A million dreams is all it’s gonna take!

July 11, 2018

 As much as I am deliberately in the moment, present, drinking in every minute of this glorious summer, it is slipping past too fast.  Do you ever feel this? And somehow summer explodes all sorts of new ideas in my head – different ways to inspire generosity, to serve my clients, to help YOU have more […]

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Problems & Challenges: Bring Em On!!

June 27, 2018

“The secret to success is not to try to avoid or get rid of or shrink from your problems; the secret is to grow yourself so that you are bigger than any problem.” —T. Harv Eker Some days it seems everything is a challenge. Major gift calls cancel, the data base fails, you get bad […]

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A Bizarre Tale from South Africa

June 6, 2018

Ever had a volunteer’s passion go to unhelpful extremes? Let me share a tale from my trip to South Africa. We were told to bring candy, stickers and soccer balls, if we wished, for the fifty or so 1st to 8thgraders at a small black school near our safari camp.  So with candy, stickers and […]

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What does your future hold?

May 23, 2018

My son, RJ, just graduated from the UW Madison! Yep…we are bursting with pride and spent a wonderful 4 days celebrating. In a few short weeks he’ll be off to Boulder, Colorado and a new job with Major League Baseball Advanced Media creating some sort of mobile app. A sweet job, indeed. WoHOO! At 23, […]

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Part IV – If only my Board would help show our appreciation

May 9, 2018

It was a whirlwind four-conference speaking tour at the AFP International Conference, NAYDO, AFP Genesee Valley and LeadingAge Iowa. Even the 5:45 am flights were AWESOME!  (well that may be a bit of a stretch). I must share the most amazing surprise at the AFP Genesee Valley Conference–  JOY cookies!  The entire conference was themed […]

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Part III – If Only My Board Would Help! Invite them to Invest!

April 25, 2018

“Ambassadors ALL!” At my talk at the AFP International Conference in New Orleans, I kicked off with a TEST! “Stand up if you think it’s true, “Board members should not be pressured into giving or helping raise money.” I’d say it was about 50/50. Answer? True. More on that in a bit. Reconnecting with my […]

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