Yes, it’s that time of year again! As much as 80% of your fundraising revenue is at stake based upon the success of your annual year-end appeal and other year-end giving. This is scary for most nonprofits and their boards.

Even with this overriding fear, there exists the courageous minority of nonprofit organizations who rise up and try new methods and processes.

Breaking the Status Quo

It is amazing how strong the pull of the status quo is for everything from the food we eat to the clothes we wear. This same adherence to “what we are used to” applies to everything from appeal letter formats to campaign routines at most nonprofit organizations.

Positioning your nonprofit for the best year-end appeal ever is going to require stepping out of that comfort zone. This boldness may not come easy, but the potential reward will hopefully spur most to try some, if not all, of the suggestions below.


The mere mention of segmentation is scary to some fundraisers. Our own research shows that only about 64% of nonprofits are segmenting their communication.

In most cases, fear stems from two factors:

  • Lack of knowledge and/or experience with concept of segmentation
  • Lack of knowledge and/or experience with the database processes for proper segmentation

We will concentrate on the former and leave it to your chosen donor database vendor to explain the latter.

If your organization is still using the same single year-end letter for everyone, or if you just have two letters (one for prospects and one for previous donors), then moving the segments listed below will be a major improvement:


These seven segments allow you and your team to create a mini-communication plan for each segment. Such mini-plans might include any or all of the following:

  • A slightly or totally different letter
  • A different style or tone
  • A different P.S.
  • A handwritten P.S. or note in the margin
  • A hand-addressed envelope
  • A totally handwritten letter
  • A letter + a phone call
  • A letter + a personal visit
  • A letter + a private event invite
  • More levels of personalization
  • A note or picture from the recipient of the service provided by the previous gift
  • A thumb drive with a video explaining the project the appeal is supporting
  • A premium or small token of thanks in advance for the perspective gift


Most of the mini-plan options listed above provide or allude to more personalization. This cannot be emphasized enough! Every human being receiving your appeal enjoys knowing that it is personalized for him or her.

Once again, proper donor database knowledge and usage comes into play. Most top-notch systems will allow the merging of variables such as titles, salutations, informal names, previous gift amount, YTD giving, lifetime giving, previous projects supported, previous events attended, memorials/tributes and others that would be special to the donor.

We have all been recipients of non-personalized form letters and very personalized letters with portions being added by hand. Which one made you feel more connected and special?

Utilizing the segments listed above allow this type of personalization where it matters most. This is vital if there is not enough time or resources to do such personalization for everyone.

Test, Test, Test

As you become at ease with segmentation and personalization take the next big step towards improvement: testing.

Within each segment, try different versions of the 13 mini-plan ideas listed above. Simple A/B tests of those variables will enable you and your team to move results even higher as the best options emerge.

This final step is both rewarding and fun!


Achieving the best results ever may require some courage to be different or to extend current processes.

You can do it!

Drop me a note and let me know what happens. I would love to hear about your results!

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