end of year appeal

A year-end appeal to supporters is challenging in the best of times. How do you approach them in these times? Creatively, thoughtfully, methodically, and strategically.

Strategically.

Let’s work backward and start with strategically. All effective messaging starts with a strategy that takes into consideration:

  • The audience
  • What they want to hear
  • What you need them to hear, and
  • What you want them to do.

It’s always wise to step back for a moment and think about your audience in terms of what they want to hear and what you need them to hear. Not everyone connected to you will respond to the same thoughts, feelings, and ideas. For example, younger adults may care more about your specific programs, and older adults may care more about your ongoing research or thought leadership.

However, just because they want to hear about your research activity doesn’t mean that’s what you need them to hear. If that’s the case, start with what they care about, then transition to what you want them to care about.

However, just because they want to hear about your research activity doesn’t mean that’s what you need them to hear. If that’s the case, start with what they care about, then transition to what you want them to care about.

Once you’ve addressed both what they want to hear and what you need them to hear, it’s time to go for the call-to-action (CTA). Be specific, real, and focused. Subtly has no place in a pandemic!

Methodically.

Keeping in mind your strategy, think about the cadence. Your appeal must start with the personal, emotional triggers and follow somewhat quickly with factual details. An exception to this rule is super-compelling data points that might evoke emotion from the start.

Another crucial point here is brevity. Less is more. Mark Twain once said, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” Writing succinctly and economically is much harder than just pounding out words. However, it is, without exception, time well spent.

Thoughtfully.

Of course, it’s not all about you. When crafting a year-end appeal, or any message for that matter, empathy goes a long way—especially now. How does what you do mesh with what they’re experiencing? Here too, a look at the unique types of audiences you have is essential. Using the same example, older adults may be worried about their health and younger ones, their careers.

Put yourself in their shoes before hitting “send.” Where are their heads? And, as always, are there background details that you know because you live and breathe your work every day but that they simply wouldn’t think about?

Creatively.

Finally, times like these call for creativity! How can you get your message across in ways that grab attention? Does an end of year appeal have to be an email? Nope. It could be a video, even an audio recording. It might even be a phone call for some strategically selected audience members. Whatever medium you deem the most appropriate try to make something about it unexpected and memorable (but, of course, in line with your organizations’ brand and messaging framework).

Just because this year is (finally) coming to a close doesn’t mean that anything will be back to normal anytime soon. That means that while you must approach your year-end appeal strategically, thoughtfully, and creatively, it also needs to be honest, upfront, even vulnerable.

Good luck! And, remember, as always, we’re here to help.

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