Devoting time to your year-end appeal seems a difficult task when faced with an upcoming fall event season. However, with 30% of annual giving happening in the month of December and increased online giving (up 12% in 2017*), devoting time to your year-end appeal is a necessity, specifically segmenting and telling your story. Planning ahead will help if you have a clear timeline with tasks. And some small steps taken now will ensure greater success later.

Start now on finding that story. Work with program staff or ask someone to write their own story. Maybe this is an update on a client served; a client whose story was showcased recently at an event or in a donor newsletter. Keep in mind that while donors want to know the story, they also need metrics. Over the next couple of months, think of clever ways to incorporate metrics into that letter and ensure the story gains empathy, not sympathy.

Now that a story is underway, it’s time to tackle – and segment – the list. Utilize board and other committee volunteers to help identify who they know on the list (or specific segments of the list) so they can handwrite personal notes on those letters later. This is what takes time and forward planning.

Over the next couple of months, you will fine tune those segments and make sure you are speaking to the donor in meaningful ways. How? Well, segmenting isn’t a one size fits all. Once you’ve pulled your data, determine which groups need which language and how you are going to reach them. Major donors, monthly donors, volunteers, regular donors, non-donors – they are all different to you and must be asked differently.

Major Donors are often the trickiest segment and the one that we usually say “forget it – no time!” Truth is: you HAVE to spend time here. It’s likely that not all major donors are giving at year-end. Perhaps they choose to give in August, or March. Honor that by still sending them a letter with a handwritten note thanking them for their annual gift and telling them you wanted to share the story they had a role in. Don’t ask them for anything specific here. For major donors who DO give at year-end, make a plan for how you will appeal to them.

This same approach could be used for your monthly donors as well. Let them know you know them by writing that handwritten, personal note thanking them for being a monthly donor.

Segmenting data and writing personal notes is time intensive. We get it. That’s why your year-end appeal planning should start in August.

*2017 Blackbaud Giving Report