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Lessons from political campaigns for year-end appeals

Posted July 22, 2020 by Virginia Davidson

Lessons from political campaigns

As appeal season draws closer in 2020, there are some key takeaways from political campaigns you can incorporate into your appeal plan.

Consider these two scenarios:

Imagine it’s 5pm on a local election day. You get a call from a volunteer with candidate XYZ’s campaign, asking if their campaign can count on your vote. Candidate XYZ’s name doesn’t ring a bell. What are the chances you’ll vote for them if you haven’t been to the polls already?

Now imagine you received a mailing from Candidate XYZ’s campaign five months ago to introduce the candidate. Since then, you’ve learned about the candidate’s platform through various outreach efforts and you know it resonates with your own priorities. A month ago, a volunteer checked in to make sure you’re registered to vote. This past weekend, you got a call to remind you of your polling location. Today, the campaign calls to see if you’ll be able to get to the polls before they close. You tell them you’ve already been to the polls and were happy to vote for Candidate XYZ.

In order to run a successful political campaign, voters need to be familiar with a candidate’s priorities and values; be registered to vote; know when and where to vote; and be reminded to vote.

It’s not much different for a year-end appeal. In order to run a successful year-end appeal, you need to make sure donors are familiar with your organization and its work; be able to reach your donors; make it easy for them to make a gift; and remind them to make a gift by December 31.

Are you setting your donors up to be able to support a successful year-end appeal for your organization? Here are four simple ways you can set your year-end appeal up for success:

Touch base with your donors.

If you haven’t engaged with donors since you sent a thank you letter for their gift to last year’s appeal, they may not feel inclined to respond to your appeal this year. Put together an update thanking them again for their support and sharing clear examples of what their gift has made possible so far this year. Share the organization’s priorities for the year.

Ensure you can reach your donors.

Running your data through the National Change of Address Registry (NCOA) helps you maintain up-to-date addresses for your contacts and saves you from having to manually update addresses in your database. NCOA contains the names and addresses of permanent change-of-address records from individuals, families, and businesses who have filed a change of address with the United States Postal Service. Take advantage of this service at least a month or two ahead of your appeal mail date so you can ensure that the letters are sent to your donors’ and prospects’ most up-to-date addresses. Many printers offer this service for nonprofits.

Make it easy for donors to give.

Include a remittance envelope with your appeal letter. Just as it’s important to know your polling location for election day, donors need to know where to send their gift. Remove any inconveniences to donating by including a well-crafted remittance envelope with your appeal, along with instructions on how to make a gift online.

Craft a plan to remind donors about your year-end appeal.

Your work isn’t done when your appeal letter goes into the mail. How will you follow up with donors to encourage them to make a gift as December 31 draws closer? Make a communications plan that includes emails, phone calls, and social media posts to reinforce your appeal



It’s no small task to put together a successful fundraising appeal, but you can help ensure its success by preparing your donors to give, just as a political campaign helps prepare its constituents to vote. Once you’ve followed these four steps, you’ll be poised and ready to follow our six steps to a successful appeal.

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