This summer is my class reunion from Milton Academy. (A George Bush was president when I graduated but I won’t tell you which one.)
All reunions have class gifts. As a fundraising coach, I figured fundraising from my classmates should be a cinch.
It wasn’t! I found myself making all the mistakes I coach people not to make.
Here are some things I had to relearn:
Don’t delay making the ask
Get as early a start as possible. Most people will probably give closer to the deadline, but starting early allows you to get some early success under your belt.
Batch emails in groups of 5-10
As I tell my Fundraising Kick community, batching contacts makes the entire process much easier. It usually takes an inordinant amount of effort to do the first ask. And most stop there. But if you were planning on doing multiple asks, you’ll find the second isn’t as hard as the first. And the ninth is much easier than the second. You’ll also find yourself improving your wording and getting better at asking as you go.
My first contacts with many of my classmates was this email soliciting them for the class gift. These were so hard to write! I found myself making the classic nonprofit mistake of delaying the ask. I wanted to apologize for not communicating over the decades. To talk about the weather. To ask if they were married or not. (How awkward an opening would that have been?!)
Rubbish! They already knew I hadn’t been in touch with them! And for that matter, I knew they hadn’t been in touch with me either. I just needed to get to the point. Why waste their time or mine?
I simply said something like, “Hi Joe, Can you believe it’s reunion time again?! We’re starting to look like those ‘grown up’ people in the Milton magazine! Part of our reunion is raising a $35,000 class gift. They’re making it ridiculously easy to participate. Leadership giving is only $1798 and can be paid over five years. Would you join us?”
Send to individuals
I sent to individuals. That way I could add their name and any pertinent information. To me, sending a blanket email with all the addresses in the BCC, is like photocopying a form letter and sticking it in the local chamber of commerce’s newsletter. Not very effective.
Send yourself a BCC
While I don’t like to use the BCC for sending emails, I do like to put my own email address in the BCC. That way I get to see how my email looks when it goes through the email system.
Reading over these email tips, it strikes me that they apply to fundraising in general:
- Start now
- Batch your calls
- Get to the point
- Personalize contacts
- Include yourself on your own mailing list.
Nothing earth shattering here, but I have always contended that the basics are extreme!
I love tip #5 – I think too many people forget that. I have set up email accounts at about 8 different email providers and cc all of them, just so I can see how the email looks in those different platforms.
I have one more to add: PROOFREAD! Here’s a handy check-list that I put together before sending an email: http://bit.ly/mr8De1
It helps you think about each of the steps the potential donor will follow as they read your email.
Melissa, GREAT point! I like typing things out in a word processor to make sure spelling is right.
Even then, if you’re cutting and pasting the text from message to message, you might forget you personalized one of the letters. I hate sending a note to “John” with a reference to “Sara” in it!
Marc, you hit the nail on the head and helped me close thee donations by email last night. I was nervous about contacting people I hadn’t spoken with in years and would have started with an apology, except that that sounded lame, so I couldn’t get myself to solicit them at all.
I pretty much swiped your concept whole cloth, and threw in my own wrinkle or two. Emailed five people, three responded right away.
Oh, and I bought your book just now, too.
Regards and thank you,
I’m thrilled these tips helped you too. Wonderful!
(I’m thrilled you purchased my book too. *grin*)
Less is more…the nature of email with it’s quick delivery means folks look on it as quick communication. So kept it short. For those who are interested in learning more, embed a link to web pages or videos stories of impact.
Create your template in html so your layout doesn’t break up when displayed by a different email client.
I haven’t had to do a lot of fundraising in my life, but you tackle the hardest parts about it really well in this post.
One of the few times i needed to “make the ask,” I expressed my discomfort about it and a friend said, “Isn’t the cause worth it?” That snapped me right into shape. I guess if you are fundraising for a cause you really believe in, the asking gets easier. A bit. 🙂
Margie: Thanks for adding to the conversation!
I wish we all had friends like that! 🙂