As Thanksgiving approaches, your anxiety level may be rising at the prospect of spending uncomfortable meals with relatives, engaging in an even shorter official Christmas shopping season than usual, and getting your annual appeal letter out.
I can’t help you much on the first two, but a couple years ago Fracture Atlas posted their helpful “Procrastinators’ Guide to Sending a Year-End Appeal”
Reading their guide might cause you a little bit more anxiety at first when they suggest the appeal consist of three different missives rather than one, but I promise there is a method in their apparent madness that aims to make the whole process productive for you. (my emphasis)
If you have read this blog for any length of time, you know I talk about the importance of marketing materials being focused on the experience of the participant rather than on the importance of the organization or performer. The appeal letter is no different. Juliana Steele who wrote the Fractured Atlas piece says the emphasis should be on the impact the donor can have and be positive in tone rather than focused on the organization and its frightening dire need.
While it may be true that your program, production, or exhibition will have to scale back if you don’t raise the appropriate funds, remind them of what you will be able to do with their support, not what you won’t be able to do. The holidays may have them stressed out — give them inspiration!
Other suggestions Steele makes deal with the logistics of the ask–including specifically asking for a donation rather than implying it. Projecting success is important, but not the appearance of wasteful spending. Steele says the letter should be printed on good paper, but nothing so fancy that people become concerned about organizational priorities.
It should be easy for people to return their check in a return envelop or make a donation online. The more steps people need to take to get funds to you, the greater a chance their process will stall along the way.
Of course, sometimes the hardest part of writing an appeal letter is just getting started. Take it from someone who learned to type on an actual typewriter–the best thing about word processing is that the time cost of writing more than will be ultimately necessary is near zero. Starting to write anything knowing you will edit it down moves you closer to the end goal faster than staring at a blank screen. (These blog posts don’t come easy a lot of times and often evolve a fair bit from the topic I started writing about.)
Steel provides the following advice along those lines:
Writing a letter that is inspiring can be challenging and anxiety producing. Honestly, all you can do is sit down and get words on paper. Turn off the television, navigate away from your inbox, read appeals from other organizations, and make a list of all the amazing stuff you do (and will do next year). After a while, you will have something to work with and build upon.
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