Yes, you need money. Yes, you need donors. But you also need a reason to ask. So how do you get to the heart of a fundraising appeal?
International fundraising consultant Paul Seigel gets the job done time and again by asking these ten questions...
Paul Seigel is an international fundraising consultant, direct mail expert, and 30-year-nonprofit guy with a famous alter ego in the world of darts. (Additional details below.)
He is also my copywriting friend. And sometimes... my boss.
Every six weeks or so, a couple of creative briefs show up in my Inbox from Paul, ranging from four to 22 pages in length. History of the organization he wants me to write for, reason for the appeal, suggested length and format of the appeal, supporting news documents.
But the juiciest part of what he sends are the answers he gets to ten standard questions. These get to the heart of the appeal so quickly that, after a fifteen minute phone call, I can almost always write the appeal in one shot for him.
Since they work so well for Paul, and for me, I asked him if I could share the Ten Questions with you. Here they are:
1.) What is the current situation?
2.) What is your organization doing?
3.) Why is it important now?
4.) What is your organization's history? (What underscores your credibility?)
5.) What is your long-term goal?
6.) What is the specific need for financial support?
7.) What specific action is required of supporters? (Provide the details. Names, addresses, specific messages.)
8.) What should the overall angle or thrust of the mailing be? (What is the overarching message and what do you want to move your supporters to do?)
9.) What else (quote, story) might be incorporated into the appeal?
10.) Provide a half-dozen (not more) quality photographs and captions.
May the questions serve you in good stead!
About Fundraising Consultant Paul Seigel:
Paul is an independent fundraising consultant and director of the Florida-based Direct Mail Systems' Non-profit Division. He's been the Vice President of Development and Marketing at places like IFAW, Operation Smile, Pearl S. Buck International and presently, at Alley Cat Allies (interim position).
He also travels the globe not only for his international fundraising work, but as his dart-throwing alter ego and published author, Dartoid. (Google him, if you dare!)
Bottom line, if you're looking for a fundraising consultant or interim development executive, Paul is sometimes accepting new clients. (Operative word is sometimes: he is good at what he does. So he's usually busy and always selective. He's also a super guy with a terrific sense of humor. So if you need a direct mail pro with armloads of experience, email me. I'll introduce you.)
If you didn't take my advice on how to build your email subscriber list back in 2009, maybe you'll listen to The New York Public Library's Johannes Neuer. And email naysayers? Check out these results...
When I read in "Email Insider" that The New York Public Library's eCommunications Manager, Johannes Neuer, had increased subscriber opt-ins by a whopping 120 percent -- and boosted sign-up conversions by 53 percent simply by changing its sign-up page, I knew I had to share.
This is exactly the stuff I wrote about two years ago, in my 2009 report, 99 Nonprofits.
So what, specifically, did Johannes do?
Five ways you can follow the NYPL's example, and increase email sign-ups on your nonprofit website:
1.) Put an email signup on your homepage. Get it above the fold. Do not make it complicated: allow the visitor to enter his or her email address directly on the homepage sign-up box, then hit enter to complete the rest of your form.
Here's how the NYPL does it.
2.) Get email sign-up boxes on every page of your nonprofit website, or at least the most popular ones. NYPL puts them in what Johannes Neuer calls "the deep footer" of all its program pages. Here's an example of that; just scroll to bottom of page when you click.
3.) Do not ask for too much at sign up. Period. Neuer says, "In the test, we established the form that just asked for the email address, as compared to the form that asked for more data. Subscriber opt-ins increased by 120%. The optimized sign-up page had a 53% higher conversion rate. We wanted to have as little friction as possible. We automatically signed people up to the main email and didn't ask them to pick which different emails they wanted to sign up for, but we included an email about the different newsletters and the key benefits of being a subscriber." Bravo.
Side Note: I signed up for The NYPL's e-news, just to test it. Email address is the ONLY thing they ask for... not gender, not date of birth, not my shoe size. Though, all joking aside, I think it might be a good idea to test one or two additional items, like asking folks for at least their first name so you can personalize your messages. Or, for example, on my own e-news sign-up, I have an optional box that asks folks how they heard about me. Some answer, some don't.
4.) Another thing I wrote about in 2009 that's working for The NYPL: trigger emails.
As a public library, The NYPL's trigger emails are relevant to the extreme. The organization sends emails to let patrons know their books are in, or to remind them when books are due. Even my own sleepy small-town library is doing this. Has your nonprofit found a way? Again, from 2009, an e-news issue I wrote on trigger emails and autoresponders.
5.) And one I didn't write about? Share to social.
In the e-mail header, The NYPL has Share to Twitter and Facebook buttons. Neuer reports that they've seen content go viral, and that "the idea is that content gets legs and travels beyond the newsletter." Eloquently put.
Helpful Links, Repeated:
1.) The New York Public Library's website
2.) Direct Marketing News' Email Insider Q-and-A with Johannes Neuer, 8/17/2011
3.) My report on nonprofit email marketing, 99 Nonprofits.