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How to avoid stress during appeal season

Posted July 2, 2015 by Virginia Davidson

Escape plan for fundraising

Before we know it, the unhurried summer days will be replaced by a flurry of activity. Development offices will be swimming in end-of-year appeal letters, mailing labels, and remittance envelopes. If you’ve ever found yourself wishing you could escape from it all around November, we have the perfect ESCAPE plan for you. It doesn’t involve hiding under your desk or running for the hills. In fact, this escape plan will help you develop a successful appeal plan for your end-of-year fundraising efforts and keep your stress level down! Carve out some time this summer to follow Little Green Light’s Escape Plan, and help your end-of-year appeal be a success.


Here’s your ESCAPE Appeal plan:

E – Establish an appeal calendar

S – Set goals

C – Develop your appeal content

A – Assess your data

P – Practice and prepare

E – Examine your communications


Establish an appeal calendar. Your appeal calendar doesn’t have to be sophisticated – you can simply determine the key deadlines for your appeal and jot them down in one place. What date will your letters to major donors go in the mail? When do you want prospective donors to receive their appeals letters? Review your development plan and program calendar so you can take other activities into consideration as you plan the appeal. Share your appeal calendar with key staff to get their feedback and to make them aware of the timeline.

Sample: Key Appeal Dates

10/1Personalized letters mailed to last year’s donors and all major donors
10/15Letters mailed to business supporters
11/1Letters mailed to prospective donors and lapsed donors
12/2Giving Tuesday eblast
12/27 and 12/31Year-end reminder eblasts



Set your goals and your plan. How much do you need to raise from individual donors, business sponsors, and foundations? Review last year’s results and incorporate the lessons learned into this year’s appeal plan. Tip: Check out Little Green Light’s free ebook: 6 Steps to a Successful Fundraising Appeal for some additional ideas.



Develop the content of your appeal. What projects or programs are you trying to fund, and what stories will you share in your appeal communications? Talk with program staff and ask them to share some recent success stories or anecdotes. Better yet, make time to attend a program so you can see for yourself the difference your organization is making. It’s always easier to craft compelling appeals when you can draw from your own words and experiences. Tip: while you’re in writing mode, also draft your acknowledgment letters, so you’ll be ready to say thank you as soon as the first donations come in!



Assess your data. The prospect of cleaning up your data can be overwhelming, and while there’s no silver bullet for this process, your donor management software may provide a number of resources to help make sure your data is in good shape. For instance, Little Green Light offers the ability to check for duplicate records, automatically verify mailing address data, and more. You might also consider running your database through the National Change of Address Registry or running a donor database audit.



Practice and prepare. Before you’re up against a deadline, do some practice runs to ensure things will go smoothly. Generate envelopes or mailing labels to verify that your templates work as you want them to. Now is also a good time to check your online donation forms, confirm that everything is working correctly, and make any updates that have been on the back burner. Are you planning to use a donation form specific to your end-of-year appeal? Build and test it now so all that’s left to do is publish it when the time is right! If you don’t yet have a way to collect donations online, investigate systems like Little Green Light and plan to get a system in place. It’ll be one more item to cross off your to-do list.



Examine your communications. Do a quick audit of your communications to donors and prospects since January. Are there constituents who haven’t heard from you since your last appeal? If so, there’s still time to reach out to them and update them on your organization’s activities before your end-of-year appeal goes out. Sending a brief newsletter or eblast in the summer or early fall will remind them of all the great things your organization is achieving so that when your appeal arrives, they’re inspired to donate.


By investing a few summer hours and using LGL’s ESCAPE Plan as your guide, you’ll be well-prepared for a panic-free and successful end-of-year appeal season.

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