Sunday, December 5, 2010

How to create a non-profit holiday donation solicitation that works

I'm an active volunteer for several non-profit organizations that fundraise, and like most of us, am otherwise bombarded by monthly solicitations from various alumni associations vying for some cash.

I just received a standout holiday direct mail piece from the Berkeley Student Cooperative that actually made me get out my checkbook. Here are the three things they did right:

1. Perfect Amount of Personalization: It's a cute well designed holiday card. All the co-op house names are on the front. There's not one but three hand-written notes from current members.

They didn't even use my name, or the house I lived in, but that doesn't matter - I'm still really impressed that three students spent the time to write little notes like "Much coop love." I can't even read two of the three messages but don't care since it's the thought that counts. One student drew a heart and colored it in with red crayon. These small touches make a big difference.

2. Seasonally Appropriate: It's a holiday card. It came at the perfect time of year; right before I've have spent all my disposable income on gifts and am beginning to feel holiday cheer, without the stress and holiday overload that will come in the next two weeks. They position their annual goals as "resolutions" instead of just "goals" or more dull "benchmarks" (more on that below).

3. Proved That My Money Will Go to Good Use: Here's where they knocked it out of the park. They could have left the left side of the card blank and gone on with their lives. Instead, they included two lists: "2010 Resolutions" with checked check boxes by each of the 5 goals, and then "2011 Resolutions" with unchecked boxes.

This tells me two things: they were able to accomplish a lot with their donations from this year, and they have a clear mission for next year. It's also cool to see that one of next year's resolutions is to raise money for a seismic retrofit of the house I lived in (see? more personalization).

Conclusion: The personalization of this card combined with their clear direction and transparent "resolutions" make for a great way to really get inside my head, and fill it only with positive thoughts and feelings about donating. Compare this to a generic form letter most other organizations send with a fake signature from the principle/president at the bottom and you can see why this card made me finally give.

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