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3 Tips to Turn Your Out of Office into a Year-End Appeal

The temperature is rising, the days are longer, and the kids are out of school. Summer is here and your Out-of-Office notifications are on! Sometime over the next few weeks, we will invest five glorious minutes to configure our inbox and voicemail to craft the perfect message to let everyone know we are unplugging for summer break.

Too often, the Out-of-Office notification is a missed opportunity to creatively promote your nonprofit, build relationships, and advance the donation process through meaningful engagement. Let’s face it, nobody really cares that you will be out of the office, why, or for how long. They care even less that you’ll have “limited access to email,” or that your office “will reopen the Tuesday after Labor Day.” The person trying to contact you probably has a question – and the call may even be related to making a gift to your organization. They need, and deserve, an answer – summer break or not.

Although the summer months are typically the smallest giving months, it is an opportunity to get a head-start on fundraising to position your organization for year-end success. We would all be well-served to consider a proactive, donor-centric approach when creating our OOO messages.

Follow these three simple steps to make your OOO notification meaningful, memorable, and possibly even profitable:

1. Connect your greeting directly to your mission and programs

Think impact

You may be out of the office yet your nonprofit continues to make a major impact even when the office isn’t open. For your email OOO message, graphics and tag lines should instantly showcase the impact and value of your nonprofit. Use positive action verbs in your voicemail OOO notification to confirm that a closed office does not mean your nonprofit is taking time off from its vital mission.

Think about all of the time and energy you invest in trying to thoughtfully engage your donor. When they contact you via phone or email, the opportunity is there even if you’re not. To make it a worthwhile engagement for both the person reaching out to your organization and your nonprofit, use the technology available to share valuable information about your programs and donation process. Convey a similar but abbreviated message as you would in an appeal email or letter.

2. Anticipate why an existing or prospective donor needs to connect

Think FAQ

Direct them to the information they need to make or fulfill a gift online or via direct mail. Your email OOO message opportunity provides valuable real estate to brand your organization and demonstrate value without writing volumes of irrelevant details. Use relevant seasonal graphics and links to anticipate the person’s immediate needs while showing the impact and value of your nonprofit. Remember donor-centric puts the focus on the OOO notification reader, not on you. And most definitely not on the wonderful details of where you are spending the summer or with whom or for how long.

For voicemail OOO messages, leverage voice tone and energy to convey attentiveness even in your absence. Yes, smiles do transfer over phone lines. The caller is concerned with a resolution to their question. Provide them with a short list of frequently asked questions, three alternate contacts, and important phone numbers or extensions. Keep it donor-centric, sincere, and high energy while providing actual directions to aid the caller not send them on a wild goose chase. Be sure to provide as many details about your nonprofit’s mission, donation process, and available resources to answer their question without sounding like a directory. After all, your recorded voicemail message is still a dialogue between two people.

3. Recognize everyone over the summer months “will have limited access…”

Think creativity

If your OOO notification or message can make them smile, laugh, or be memorable, you have initiated or enhanced a relationship. If it drags on with meaningless or perfunctory information, you can expect their eyes to roll and should not rely on their last minute end of year donation. Express the good your organization does in your OOO notifications. Guide them through online or direct mail giving process along with access to other vital information they may be calling or emailing you about. Make certain your website and social media anticipate their needs as well as simplify the donation process. And, in the spirit of the summer break, invite them to share their philanthropy with their social networks through engaging and laid back summer campaigns.

By now everyone on the planet knows that if they’ve reached a voicemail, the person they’re calling is unavailable. Don’t waste anyone’s time explaining common knowledge. Use that valuable time to inspire them with humor related to your nonprofit, the summer break, or their summer procrastination while demonstrating with sincerity that they, and not just their potential gift, are important to you and your organization every day of the year.

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