Is it time to think about your annual report? Yes. Anytime is the time to think about your annual report. Annual reports have evolved from the old black and white list of donors of years gone by. Yet before you even think about how the final product looks, you need to know why you’re putting in all the effort and how it’s going to be used. The annual reports that might go with a solicitation are starting to look like oversized brochures. Some annual reports stay in electrons forever on a web site, and don’t even make it to print. Regardless, a good annual report, like any powerful marketing and fundraising piece, must connect your donors to your mission. So while the number of people served or acres preserved is important, it’s the connection with the people you impact that brings the message home.
Ever notice what people say is often very different than what they do? What seems logical and “intuitive” can be completely wrong. In fundraising you only need to look as far as the mailbox.
Time and time again, from volunteers and staff alike, I hear the mantra “I don’t have time to read a long letter.” Yet my experience and other direct mail experts will tell you, long letters can get results – especially in “acquisition” mailings, when you want to attract someone as a new donor.
Think of it this way. When you meet someone for the first time, do you say “let me make this short and to the point: give me money”? No, you have a talk about your mission and why they should take part. You paint a picture of your organization’s vision for a better world. You invite them to join you in the cause.
But who has time to read all of that?
You do. I do. They do…if it’s important to them. Each of us makes space in our day for issues that are important to us – in our jobs, our families, our dreams for a better world. If you’re mailing to the right people – the ones that have an affinity for your cause, they will read.
Of course you make the reading easy for them. You use bullets, you bold and underline worlds, and you write in an engaging manner.
Of course, I’m biased. Writing letters – short or long – is my work. I would be happy to write letters for you and your cause. But more than that, your success is my success, so if a longer letter gets more donors and more dollars – that’s great for both of us.
So once in a while – go long.
Have you planned for planned giving? I’ll go out on a not-so-long limb and say that most nonprofit managers (even fundraisers) wake up in a sweat when they hear the words “planned giving.” Too bad. Planned giving can be your best friend, especially if you have any kind of track record in direct mail solicitations. Planned giving isn’t about understanding complicated tax law, it’s about understanding how to relate to people at a deep enough level so that they trust you with their eternal legacy. And you know who usually makes planned gifts? Long term annual fund donors. Time to check your pledge cards and web site. Do your donors know that your organization can go in their will?
Let’s hear it for the slacktivists! “Slackitivists” – a word combination of slacker and activist – are the folks who “like” or give you a “thumbs up” on social media sites and other places they’re given the opportunity. Don’t write them off as a bunch of couch-potato post-college 20 some-things living in their parent’s basement. Slacktivism can be a gateway activity to support from either the slacktivist his/herself, or someone influenced by all of the “likes” left behind on the sites and causes that your slacktivist followers support. Review your web sites, your Facebook pages and other social media and allow plenty of opportunities to be a darling among the thumbs-up crowd.