End of Year/Start of Year Cash Appeal Letters
Now is the time to plan your end-of-year/start-of-new-year fundraising. Too many mission-workers wait until December 15 and send out a hurried appeal letter that is more need-driven than vision-driven. Take time now to plan your strategy.
Gospel-workers outside America say that an end-of-year letter is not needed because in most countries there is no tax incentive for giving. But don’t miss this turning-of-the-calendar opportunity. Send a “start-of-year” appeal. “Help us launch ministry on January 1, 2019 with full funding!” Something in that spirit.
Not a gifted writer? No problem. You need not be gifted, but you must communicate well. Follow these guidelines to reduce the pain.
How much do you need? Don’t simply make up a number. Do your homework. Include your shortfall monthly, your upcoming travel and project costs. State your cash goal clearly. Be specific--$18,780 not “about $20,000.”
Ask for a cash gift, not for monthly support. A letter will not bring monthly support—go face-to-face for monthly.
To whom will you mail? Everyone on your mailing list! Give everyone an opportunity (including current donors) and even add acquaintances not on your mailing list. Don’t decide for them by not mailing to them.
I don’t send the envelopes for a few family members and non-believers who I know would not appreciate an appeal. But only a few!
Suggested 8-point outline:
Opening sentence or two to say thank-you.
Why you are writing. “I am writing today to ask for your help.”
Review of past 12 months—pick out 3-4 highlights (only) with a photo or two. Don’t tell us everything you have done in the last 12 months. We are not your Mom.
Coming up in the next 12 months— a major ministry trip, an evangelism thrust, an expansion of the Greek ministry.
What are the challenges of the coming year?
What are your fears or concerns—be vulnerable.
Tell an incomplete story. The story reminds readers of your vision—what you are trying to accomplish, what problem you are trying to solve. But don’t merely state the organizational calling—boring. Let your story carry the vision.
The appeal. Might say: Now that you have heard our faith plans for the next 12 months, it is time to ask for your partnership. We cannot do this vision alone!
Will you pray about a special gift of the Lord’s leading to join in reaching students like Bob and Kate? The amount is up to you, but perhaps you’d consider $_____ or $_____. (See #5 below)
Thanks again expressed and sign your name.
P.S. Everyone will read a P.S. Use the P.S. to explain how to make a gift and state the deadline.
This is a cash-appeal letter, not a newsletter. Your normal newsletter with an appeal tucked in at the end will not get good results. We have tracked it! You have one topic—your cash appeal! Don’t disguise it. Your first lines go like this to three different audiences:
Dear [Joe and Sally—donor,]
Thank you for your faithful support of $35 per month over the past 12 months—your partnership is so encouraging. It has been a good year…
Dear [Bob and Cindy—non-donor,]
Thank you for your encouragement over the years in our ministry to students here at Iowa Atheist University. It has been a good year.
Dear [Louis and Barb—lapsed donor,]
Thank you for your support of our ministry to students here at Iowa Atheist University. Your gift of $200 back in June of 2016 is much appreciated…
…I am writing today to ask for your help as we end our ministry year and launch out on the new year. We have a huge opportunities as the new year begins and we need to launch out fully funded.
But first a review of three highlights of the past year…
Hard copy or electronic? Both! Hard copy is proven to get much better results than e-mail. Send an email obviously if you don’t have a physical address.
Like Moses in Exodus 25 suggest a range of giving opportunities—gold, silver, linen fabric, porpoise skins! Readers want to know what they can do that will truly help you.
For example: A gift of $287 will take care of airfare and expenses for one day during our 10-day ministry trip.
Or…$55 will cover the cost of materials and pizza for five students during orientation. But gifts of $500, $1000 and $2500 are also needed to reach our goal of $18,780 by January 5—that’s when the students arrive back on campus.
Tell a story about one person that illustrates the problem you are trying to solve. People give to help people. Think of one person in your ministry who is struggling. Maybe she is on the journey to Christ but faces some obstacles. Your readers will be more motivated by this “incomplete story” than a successful story.
Include ministry success too if you like. Get permission from those you write about. Disguise names and places as appropriate.
Give a deadline for sending a gift. Usually 4-6 weeks. For end of year or start of year, your letter should be mailed by December 5 latest.
Include a photo of you in ministry action. It is not prideful. Face it, your readers don’t think about you much and need to see your face. Sorry.
Share a meaningful scripture verse or phrase. Be vulnerable. Why is this verse meaningful for you?
Sign each letter personally with a fat blue pen (to distinguish it from a printed signature) and write a short note on as many as you can.
Give instructions on how to make a gift. Don’t assume your readers know what to do. Make it easy for them to give. Include how to give online or to send directly to your bank account (for non-American appeals). Include a pledge/commitment card with a return envelope.
Ask a friend without the gift of mercy to edit your letter!
Your regular newsletter should be only one page, but your appeal letter can be two or more pages. Take as many pages as necessary to tell your story well.
God bless you as you work hard to prepare an effective cash appeal letter. Following these 13 benchmarks and your attention to detail will increase your cash for ministry. You can find more detailed benchmarks and examples on page 125 of Funding Your Ministry (3rd edition).