By Nick Parkevich, MPA, CFRE
By Nick Parkevich, MPA, CFRE
In case you missed it in today’s The Chronicle of Philanthropy, nonprofit organizations in one Indiana County are receiving an early Christmas gift from their local taxing authority: property-tax bills. This measure or one similar in nature has been brought before the Indiana General Assembly a number of times now, but St. Joseph County has now enacted levies against “profit-making” properties owned by nonprofits.
These measures obviously come at a time when both government entities and nonprofits are struggling financially; with some organizations closing or considering mergers. With nearly 2 million nonprofit entities registered in the U.S., the sector has been a growing target for taxing bodies.
There is no question that nonprofits benefit from public goods and services just as much as any other tax-paying entity. The question is whether the benefit in tax revenues derived by taxing nonprofits is worth the potential harm that comes—from the taxes, user fees, or whatever else you want to call it—in forcing organizations to redirect revenues away from their mission?
I think I feel a lawsuit coming!
Visit the article in today’s The Chronicle of Philanthropy here.
About the blogger: Nick Parkevich, MPA, CFRE, serves as Consultant & Director of Client Development at Achieve, LLC. Nick can be reached by phone at 317-637-3000 or via email at email@example.com
By Derrick Feldmann, CEO of Achieve
By Nick Parkevich, MPA, CFRE
A successful direct mail program can be the cornerstone of a comprehensive development process. Effective direct mail appeals are fully capable of acquiring new donors, maintaining current donors and upgrading donor gifts to new levels of giving.
However, creating an effective direct mail instrument can be an expensive and lengthy process; sometimes requiring years of testing and refinement of the instrument and an ongoing thorough evaluation of recipients.
Consider some of these best practice strategies for direct mail fundraising appeals:
- Timing is critical, as it can invigorate donors to give or confuse them, depending on what other fundraising activities you’re already doing.
- Develop a profile of the appropriate direct mail recipient. By ensuring that only appropriate recipients receive the appeal, it can reduce the cost of the mailing and improve the success of the appeal. Sending it to the appropriate recipients can also help continue to build the relationship, whereas it may confuse the relationship with other donors.
- Determine appropriate next steps (before you send the mailing) to continue building the relationship with a donor, once they respond to the mailing.
- Depending on the total number of pieces sent and the time spent to pull the mailing together, consider either utilizing volunteers or contracting with a direct mail vendor.
- The outer envelope is very important! Consider the following practices:
- Closed-faced envelope (not a window envelope).
- Live stamp, although depending on the number sent, you may be able to send
utilizing a non-profit stamp for a significantly reduced postage rate.
- Hand-addressed envelopes are a nice addition for increasing the open rate of mailings, but are not cost and time effective for most organizations. The next best option is a printed envelope and finally a printed label applied to the envelope.
- Black and white printing is adequate and provides the appearance of good stewardship of funds to donors; as compared with full-color printing on expensive paper.
- Draw the reader into your mission by providing “action photography” of your mission at work.
- The letter should be signed by a recognized staff member; or better yet, a volunteer from the community, who can independently attest to your mission.
- The length of the letter is not as important as ensuring there’s enough white space. It’s ok to spill onto the back of the letter or to a second page. In fact, research indicates that in some cases, longer letters work better.
- Be sure your text is not just focused on the past, which is a great way to connect or re-connect with supporters, but does not look forward at what you have planned for current and future participants.
- Tell a story.
- Describe what the donor’s gift will do (i.e. $50 will buy a child without a coat, a winter coat).
- Include the traditional components of a successful direct mail appeal. In fact, research shows that a reader will review a letter in the following order:
- Review of graphics and photography
- Date on letter, to ensure that it is current.
- Addressee block; the recipient will look to see if it was addressed specifically to them; or a general letter to “friends” or “supporters”; which will receive a lower response rate than if it was personalized as “Dear John:” or “Dear. Mr. Smith” depending on the organization’s and the signers’ relationship with the donor.
- Review of signers’ names (who signed and what is the quality of the signature is it real, printed, etc…).
- Post Script; recipients will read the P.S. before they read the content of the letter. The P.S. should sum up the letter and include an invitation.
- Bold, underlined and italicized fonts will be read before the entire content of the letter. Many effective direct mail solicitations include the “ask” in bold, underlined or italic fonts.
- Include a specific ask. If renewing, the most effective ask offers the donor’s last appropriate giving (either for this fund, this appeal, or the entire past year) and asks for a specific amount, based on that history.
- Include tax-deduction language on the reply card
- Order the gift amounts from highest to lowest (i.e. $1,000, $500, $250, $100, Other; instead of $100, $250, $500, $1,000, Other).
- Collect additional information such as email and phone number
- Describe what gift will do, if not included in letter (i.e. $50: your gift will provide a winter jacket for a child)
- Contact information/ website for your organization on reply card
- Under very few circumstances, should you pay for return postage.
- Evaluate the success of the mailing, based on at least the following criteria:
- Number of pieces sent
- Number of responses
- Percentage response rate (number of responses received,
divided by total number sent)
- Cost of mailing
- Amount raised
- Cost to raise a dollar (cost of mailing, divided by funds raised)
- Number of new donors
- Number of renewed donors
- Number of donors who upgraded their gifts
- Constituency (to determine most likely source of donors; i.e. parents)
- Many organizations “test” different approaches in a single mailing or continue to refine the mailing to test different approaches the following year.
About the blogger: Nick Parkevich, MPA, CFRE, serves as Consultant and Director of Client Development at Achieve. Nick can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-637-3000.
By Derrick Feldmann, CEO of Achieve
As a donor, it is extremely difficult to support organizations where there is a lack of momentum. Momentum is the ability for an organization to create a series of actions, activities, and coordinated steps that drive towards a defined goal.
Organizations will often lose momentum when there is a singular focus on the short term. Organizations will also lose momentum when they are not clear about direction or the ability to express that direction with donors. As a donor, it is very hard to support potential growth, new opportunities, or even bigger impact if you don’t understand where the organization is going.
As you think about momentum and donors, consider the following:
Define the Course: Define a course for the organization that goes beyond fixing the internal issues you face. Let donors understand why the course you have defined for yourself over the coming years is imperative and the resources (all resources - not just money) it will take to make it happen. In essence, what is happening in your issue’s space that you must address and how are you going to respond. Create a story that sums up the essence of your reason for the direction.
Internal Challenges – Fix Them: Donors expect that as an organization you will run well and steward their gifts appropriately. Fix the internal issues you have before embarking upon any initiatives. Your execution will depend on your ability to leverage your infrastructure. When talking with donors, describe how you have changed and prepared for the new course/direction. Let them understand some of the nuts and bolts of how you operate so they can grasp your capabilities.
Create Recognizable Actions: After defining the course, create recognizable actions that donors can witness and participate to experience the momentum you are creating. These are simple activities and opportunities that provide the donor with the ability to touch, see, and talk with the people served or the stakeholders involved.
Remain Consistent: With messaging, both internal and external, remain consistent. Do not create donor confusion because you have multiple messages. As an organization commit to the course fully, keep the message strong, and ensure that at all levels (board, volunteers, staff, constituents) there is a clear understanding of the direction.
Think about the organizations you support each year. Would you give more if they exhibited the momentum discussed here?