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How much is it worth to get all your appeal writing questions answered?

Published 6 months agoΒ β€’Β 5 min read

How much is it worth to get all your questions answered? Great question! (Read on, please.) This is the 105th issue of the Fundraising Writing Newsletter. If you find value here, please tell your lovely peeps. (Your lovely peeps can ​subscribe here for free.)​

In this issue:

  • How much is it worth to get all your appeal writing questions answered?
  • Thursday: digital and print appeal writing webinar (featuring Tom Ahern, Jeff Brooks, and Julie Cooper)
  • Randomly yours: to inspire and recharge you
  • Win It in a Minute

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Hi Reader,

Brett here:

I love questions.

Julie does too . . . but I'm pretty sure I love them more than she does.

I say this because Julie is apt to give me a relatively friendly kick in the shin under the table when I ask too many questions. Which is often.

For me, questions are like little lights that guide my path through the shadows of life.

I ask questions to get to know people... get to know myself... solve problems... improve...

How much is it worth to get all your appeal writing questions answered?

Because you could. At ​this Thursday's webinar.

If you're in the midst or on the brink of appeal planning, writing, and/or revising β€” then you might want to get expert answers to all of your appeal-writing questions.

For example β€” actual questions:

  1. β€œCan you talk about how to ask for unrestricted gifts but still be specific in what the donor is doing?”
  2. β€œIn the language of the appeal, how can you make a donor feel appreciated without β€œhero-izing” them or perpetuating a problematic power dynamic that has, historically, created the need of the community you might be serving and the donor’s position of power?”
  3. β€œIs there validity in foregoing mailing at the end of year and instead opting for sending in the spring when folks are less inundated with appeals?”
  4. β€œI've heard that longer letters (4-page) do better than 2-page. Is this what you have found too?
  5. β€œFor a locally based non-profit, what is an optimum number to send in a year, spaced how far apart, and what about close follow-up mailings?”
  6. β€œHow important is the signer of the annual appeal letter? Executive director vs. Board president vs. respected community leader/ personality. Also how important is the board of directors list on letterhead?”
  7. β€œA few questions: 1. What is the best timing for DM to hit mailboxes for year-end? 2. If we send multiple appeals for year-end, should they "match" thematically?"
  8. β€œWhen telling stories, how do you interrupt for an ask or mental nod? How do you get lots of "yous" in a story?”
  9. β€œSeveral of the letters shared are full of one sentence paragraphs. Are these more effective than multi-sentence paragraphs?”
  10. β€œIs there value in segmenting our donor base and creating messaging specific to those populations? (alumni group, new donors, parent group, etc)”
  11. β€œWhen an organization does multiple sideways-related services, how do you choose which program to highlight in your appeal?”
  12. β€œYou mentioned Lists and List Brokers. Our DM goes to an organic list only. What are your thoughts on purchased lists and. using list brokers?”
  13. β€œShould the digital component simply repeat the message in the DM piece?”
  14. β€œWhen should we send our first end of the year appeal letter?”
  15. β€œIs the "formula" very different when copy writing for existing donors vs attracting new supporters?”
  16. β€œWe typically send our end of calendar year appeal letter in an envelope/packet with our Annual Report booklet (a multipage visual that recaps the previous year) Would you recommend that we separate these into two direct mailings?”
  17. β€œIs it better to have an ask string that lists the same amounts on everybody's letter with what your gift will do, or make the ask string dependent on prior gifts and work the "what your gift will buy" into the copy?”
  18. β€œIf you send one direct mail appeal, how many emails do you recommend sending as a part of the campaign? Last year, we did one letter and three related emails. I work at a domestic violence agency so we told three different stories. Sounds like your approach would be simpler and more concise.”
  19. β€œWe have a gift matching opportunity linked to our holiday DM, going out with urgent, time-bound messaging, but we're curious to know if there is evidence that suggests matching gifts are better suited to urgent appeals rather than throughout longer campaigns? Or do they work equally well with either?”
  20. β€œAny tips on how to ask for donations when your organization has multiple business lines? For example, summer camp, preschool, sports programs, and senior center?”
  21. β€œRelated to the question about telling an organizational story vs. a client story… Any thoughts on telling a donor story in your year end appeal? Is it equally impactful as a client story?”
  22. β€œWhat font size do you recommend?”
  23. β€œHow do I make my thank you letter suck less?”
  24. β€œWhat do you say to a Board Member that says your letter makes them feel like it's a Hallmark movie... a "too predictable" story?”
  25. β€œThere has been a lot of talk in the past year about the unfinished story narrative. Can you talk about it? I am not fully sold on it yet."

These are 25 of 87 questions asked and answered during the All-You-Can-Eat Q&A session of last year's appeal writing webinar with 90 minutes of training by Tom Ahern and what turned out to be over 4 hours of unlimited Q&A with Tom, Julie, and special guest Mary Cahalane.

This year's webby special guest will be Jeff Brooks.
(Jeff and Tom have written several of the most useful, influential books in the donor comms sector. Amazon can confirm.)

Tom will be training.

Jeff will be helping answer questions.

Julie will be moderating.

I will be behind-the-scenes-teching.

(And I'll be nerding out over all the great questions and answers flitting about like so many fabulous fireflies!)

Will you be there too?

Thursday: Tom Ahern's appeal writing webby

Time to get on this?

Have you registered for Tom Ahern's appeals writing webinar this Thursday, September 14th?

If so, yay!

If not . . . and you are now or soon will be writing your year-end appeal . . . and you do not feel 100% confident . . .

. . . then I urge you to learn all about Tom's webby here.

(featuring guest expert Jeff Brooks!)

You can register via this informational page.

Or you can click this friendly red button:

After the webinar, you’ll receive learning materials including a video replay of the full 1.5-hour training plus the all-you-can-eat Q&A session...
(Which sessions can and usually do last for hours β€” and you can easily get your money's worth just by partaking of this unique smorgasbord of up-to-the-minute questions answered before your eyes and ears in real time!)

Randomly yours: to inspire and recharge you

For your brain, heart, and funny bone...

  • Fundraisingly Informative β€” Is the sky falling on fundraising?​ by Jeff Brooks (a blog post about how to look at your numbers and determine whether you've just "regressed to the mean" as should be expected post-pandemic peak or whether you truly should worry)​
  • Deftly Worded β€” Valerie Fridland (on linguistics) via Armchair Expert (a 1-hour, 59-minute podcast episode in which Dax Shepard interviews sociolinguist Valerie Fridland, who offers pearls of wordy wisdom including on why we cringe at the word "moist" and on how our accents serve as badges of social identity)​
  • Surprisingly Sensible β€” Gretchen Rubin Wants You to Truly Appreciate the Power of Ketchup via Katie Couric Media (an article about how and why the humble staples ketchup and vanilla are egregiously underrated)
  • Attractively Helpful β€” Ideogram (a new free online tool that uses generative AI to create beautiful images and can include words as well)​
  • Punkily Daft β€” Stardust β€˜Music Sounds Better With You’ | The Making of a Dance Classic​ via DJ Mag (a 7-minute documentary YouTube video in which we learn about how DJ Alan Braxe and vocalist Benjamin Diamond teamed up with Thomas Bangalter of Daft Punk to write their 1998 dance classic featuring a sample from Chaka Khan)

Until next time: May good questions and good answers guide you like fireflies.


PS: Here's an old favorite from last year's appeal writing webinar β€” as part of our weekly video series, Win It in a Minute. You can (and maybe want to?) subscribe here.

A webinar attendee asks: β€œHow do I create a sense of urgency in our appeals?”

Click below for Mary and Tom's answers...

video preview​

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