September is right on time to plan an end of year appeal.

The past few autumns I’ve been helping multiple groups plan end of year appeals.

 Since last year has disappeared from my memory, I think the photo above is from a campaign two years ago, for which I interviewed residents and clients of an organization providing services to older Chicagoans. It’s a great time to get stories.

This fall it’s time to gear up. Planning ahead can make all the difference because there are several moving parts.

It’s amazing to get an end of year appeal letter out any time before December 25 – although the sweet spot might be right around Thanksgiving. Most groups can get a good letter together and push out a list to email / mail. Here’s your basic 5Ws post on planning an end of year appeal.

What is the theme?

Why are you asking for money, and how will you illustrate the urgency of your need? These are basic questions that every donor will ask themselves.

It’s great to have a simple, straight answer to both questions. The first could be a specific need of the organization, don’t be afraid to say what you really need it for. Some wordsmithing is called for:

  • “Your gift is for general operations” is not very exciting
  • “Your gift is an investment in our team and ability to continue…” where the dot-dot-dot ties back to the mission which presumably is what the donor cares about (and I mean of course they care about you, too, hopefully) is honest, accurate and somewhat exciting.

Just bookmarking for another blog post to talk about those 3 all important pronouns: you, me and us.

Who are you asking?

Many organizations have a core of donors who give regularly –show them some love with your messaging. Because you really should segment – at a minimum, it’s nice to tell your core donors how much they have given total over the year, if only to show them that you are paying attention!

You want to grow their numbers, so you should think about how you can ask them to help you enlarge the circle by spreading the word. What if you asked those folks who love you already to help out? Could there be a special ask over the next couple months to share your work with their friends?

The next ring out is folks on your list who give sometimes, or never gave yet. Additional appeals (to the point of getting attention, without being obnoxious)—and the quality of the story you tell – can make a difference here. But probably the biggest difference for this group is just regularly asking them.

Where, when & how often will you ask?

There is one more essential element: whatever you create for your appeal, needs to be distributed across multiple channels, multiple times.

Routinely requesting support is the best way to get what you are looking for – generally speaking groups do not ask often enough. Given that people generally want to help but are busy, they need a certain amount of opportunities to say yes.

Repetition is your friend. In communications workshops we always say that around the time you are tired of sharing a message, is around the time that people are starting to hear it. At the simplest level, this might mean that one appeal requires 20 posts, 3 emails, and a blog post or two. More or less – this might be a bit different for every organization, and of course the length of time for the campaign matters, too.

One thing is for sure: planning that content – and scheduling it, using your online tools of choice – can make a huge difference in how much you raise, from how many people.