It’s that time of year…have you written your holiday appeal?

fall pumpkins on the porch

The leaves are turning, the days are getting shorter, pumpkins and mums perch on front porches.  Where does the time go?  I have one client who dreads this time of year.  She has been agonizing for weeks about writing her holiday appeal.  What story will she share?  How will it be different from last year?  How will it stand out from all of the other appeals that dutifully arrive in our mailboxes?  If you haven’t already started, now is the time to be thinking about your own holiday appeal.  While this task may feel daunting – as it does to my client – you can make it less overwhelming by starting with a few small steps.

Set aside 30 minutes this week and jot down your thoughts on the following:

When do I want this appeal to reach my constituents?  (note: Thanksgiving falls late this year – November 27)

  1. Based on your response to question 1, when must it be mailed?  When will you need to provide the printer with a final proof?
  2. Who will proof the letter?  Who will need to approve it?
  3. Given this timeline, when must you have a draft written?

Once you have a timeline in place, consider these questions:

Is there a compelling story or specific need you want to share?  If so, jot down a few key points.  I you don’t have any ideas, take some time to talk with your program staff or, better yet, visit your clients.  They are a great source for ideas and inspiration.

  1. Do you want to include photos?  If so, do you have them already or do they need to be taken?
  2. Do you have a donor who may be willing to provide a matching gift for your holiday appeal?  (If so, plan a time soon to connect with that donor to discuss your idea; he or she may want to be a part of the planning process.)
  3. What design will you use?  An 8 ½” x 11” letter?  Or perhaps something smaller?  Will it be on the front only or on both the front and back?  Will there be an enclosure? A return envelope?
  4. What levels of giving will you utilize?  Will these levels be tied to a specific need? (For example, your donation of $100 will provide coats, hats and boots for two children.)

Chances are, once you have written down a few notes, the task at hand won’t feel quite so formidable.  I know, because my client and I have been discussing her appeal, one step at a time.  And for the record, she always ends up with a wonderful, compelling letter.

This column was created  by:
Susan Bottum, Principal
Susan runs the Non Profit and Public Affairs Consulting Division and leads the Change Management Practice at Laurus Strategies. Susan brings broad consulting experience as well as expertise in strategy development, fundraising, board development, executive search and executive coaching.
Headquartered in Chicago, Laurus Strategies has a passion for helping nonprofits advance their mission. Laurus Strategies’ Non Profit and Public Affairs Consulting Group provides a wide range of fundraising, strategic planning, training and leadership services with a proven track record of success. Together, the team has over 80 years of experience and has helped clients raise over $650,000,000.
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