The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

Less Is More: 4 Tips for Great Year-End Appeals

Be your donor

The final two months of the year, and especially the end of December, are prime time for donors to give. With so much competition for their attention, it’s vital to send appeals that quickly draw donors into your mission and inspire them to take action.

In our Nonprofit 911 webinar Crucial Year-End Giving Strategies, Mazarine Treyz, author of Wild Woman’s Guide to Fundraising, shared how a few simple changes in word choice and formatting your appeal can mean the difference between reading and deleting.

Be Present, Active, and Direct

Present-tense verbs spark people into action. Strengthen those verbs with active voice and first-person pronouns. Minimize adverbs, adjectives, and qualifiers.

Look at how the verbs in this opening passage bring you into the experience: “Go on. Pick up the pen. Write a check now.” All present tense. The words you choose can paint a strong and direct picture for your donors: “This child is hungry now. You can help her now. Please give.” That’s a clear and present call to action. Speaking of which…

Move Your Call to Action Front and Center

Lots of nonprofits save their call to action for the end of the appeal. Instead, pepper your request throughout your letter. Offer donors several moments to think about giving. If you’re sending an email appeal, be sure to link those calls to action to your donate page, if appropriate.

Focus on the Donor

It really is all about you—the pronoun, that is. Use it throughout your appeal: “Can you help us? There is hope, and that hope is you.” Talk about how donors have made the world better with their gift: “You took 50 kids off the street last year with your donation, and now you can do more.” The donor becomes the hero of this story, increasing odds that she’ll click the donate button or send you a check because you acknowledged her important role in your mission.

Avoid Common Formatting Mistakes

How you present your message is just as important as the words you choose. Here are three common formatting mistakes that prevent donors from reading your appeal and taking action:

  • Long, unbroken paragraphs.
  • Tiny fonts.
  • Tight spacing between lines of text.

You have a small window of time to grab your donor’s attention and make your case. These simple changes help make your appeal easier to read and deliver greater impact:

  • Increase font size, and break long paragraphs into shorter ones.
  • Turn a long paragraph into a bulleted list.
  • Spotlight key ideas or messages with boldfacing or yellow highlighting.
  • Feature a quote in larger text from a person the donor is helping.
  • Use readable fonts for the body of your letter. Try a sans serif like Arial for online or email appeals and a serif font like Times New Roman for postal mail.

As you write and revise your year-end appeal, ask yourself, “How does our appeal letter look right now? Is there anything on this list that we could apply to make it easier for donors to read and act on?” And be sure to download the Nonprofit 911 webinar, Crucial Year-End Giving Strategies with Mazarine Treyz, for even more great tips and resources.

If you need more help with your year-end appeals, download our guide.

Raise More This Year with Smarter Fundraising Software

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About This Blog

Liz Ragland
Senior Associate, Marketing and Content

We’re here to help you win hearts and minds—and donations.

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