4 Common Mistakes Nonprofits Make on Solicitation Letters
Even in the age of digital marketing, solicitation letters are a key part of any fundraising plan.
Over and over and over again I see nonprofits send out correspondence for solicitation letters with the wrong messaging, the wrong formatting, and no direct ask. They send out a poor solicitation letter, and then they say... these letters aren't working for us! Solicitation letters don't work.
Last year, I asked nonprofit agencies to send me their solicitation letters. Thank you, for sending them! As I was reviewing them... I realized so many nonprofits make the exact same mistakes.
These mistakes are really missed opportunities to solidify your brand, connect with your donors, and tell your story.
Mistake #1: Forgetting pictures or a logo.
I received quite a few solicitation letters printed in color (which you should do!). But, then those letters had no pictures... and no logo.
Make sure when you send anything out that it represents you. Always include:
Your standard brand font
Any brand textures
And, Most importantly - Photos of PEOPLE showing what you're talking about!
Don't spend all that money on mailing, printing, and hopefully stamps and neglect to complete your message.
Make sure anything you print is printed in color and branded.
Remember that everyone wants to see a picture of what's going on.
Mistake #2: Forgetting to go through your donor database.
If you're going to send something out, the last thing you want to do is send something to the wrong person. The individuals on the other end of the envelope are your donors. You are sending a letter to develop or strengthen your agency's relationship with them.
For context, I'm a single woman with no children.
I received solicitation letters that said:
Mrs. Gagnon - hmm, okay.
Mr. and Mrs. Gagnon - do you even know who I am?
Kelly Gagnon and guest - well, I don't know what guest you're asking to make a donation…
Double-check your donor database before you do that mail merge and make sure everything's correct.
Mistake #3: No P.S. for lazy readers.
One of my key principles for content marketing and copy-writing in the charity world, is to always write for "lazy readers" - especially in a donor solicitation letter.
Many of the solicitation letters I reviewed had large blocks of text with no real formatting. Many of the letters had no block quotes. And, less than 10% of the letters I reviewed had a "P.S."
A P.S. is a good way to tell your "ask" to your lazy readers. If you don't include a P.S., your busy potential donors might just throw your solicitation letter to the side. Make sure your letters are formatting and easy for people to read!
Always, always, always include a P.S.
Make sure your call-to-action is very visually prominent.
Mistake #4: Using bulk mail instead of a stamp.
Resource after resource after resource says that investing in the donor and putting that stamp on will give you that return on investment back.
That small action of putting a stamp on your return envelope is a subtle way of making a personal connection with your donors. The letter looks less like a bill and more like a personal letter.
All of these other fundraising experts agree with us - first class postage on annual appeal solicitations is a must!
Even though using stamps on appeal letters is best practice with the highest ROI, 80% of the solicitation letters I received had either bulk mail or nonprofit ink on the return envelopes.
Spending $100 on stamps seems scary. But, you'll get an additional $300 back by investing that $100 in your donors.
When all best practices say put a stamp on it and you'll get a higher return on investment... put that stamp on your envelopes.
Do not do bunk mail. Throw that stamp on it!
Make the Experience Personal for Your Donors
It's not what you're doing, it's how you're doing it.
At the root of it all, think about how you can add those extra, personal touches. A personal touch goes a long way to show you care and to create personal relationships with donors.
The people you're reaching out to with your solicitation letters are giving your money and in many cases, their time. So go the extra mile to add those personal touches and make your donors feel like they're really a part of your agency.
A couple of my favorite personal touches from agencies last year:
Paw Print Ministries (Decatur, IL): on the back of their return envelope, they had a paw print from one of their comfort dogs
The Good Samaritan Inn (Decatur, IL): had a handwritten "Thanks" on the outside of my return envelope
These are just a few of the things you can do to connect with your donors, and in turn, raise more money for your nonprofit.
Want more? This Summer, I'm answering all your questions about solicitation letters in a solicitation letter course so you can:
Figure out why your solicitation letters aren't receiving any response.
Multiply your donations received from solicitation letters using the SAME amount of people and SAME amount of time.
You can personalize the experience for your donors using Facebook, too. Sign up below to download GRIT Consulting's FREE guide to Facebook for Nonprofits.
What questions do you have about writing solicitation letters?