Bluefrog is a bad place to work if you don't like Christmas. Much to my regret, it's one of the few places on the planet where Christmas starts earlier than in Tesco’s (and that's moments after Easter, isn’t it?).
Right now, we’re in the thick of Christmas work. So what better time to jot down a few thoughts that might help you make your Christmas appeal work extra hard this year? Alternatively, if someone is producing it for you, perhaps this will act as a reminder of what they should be offering you.
First up, focus.
Do you have a good story to share with your donors this Christmas?
It’s a job that’s probably already been done, but if not, there’s still time – just. Your Christmas appeal needs a focus. At its most basic, this is a project and a case-study. Or a theme. A small number of our clients feature the same project each Christmas creating a pleasing continuity. Most will be aware that Christmas is their most financially important appeal of the year and have chosen an accessible topic and case-study accordingly.
Tip: if you’re stuck for subject matter, arrange a visit or (if the work is overseas) a telephone interview to find a story. Can’t do that? Write to your donors about what they’ve done for you this year and the challenges of the year ahead. With ultra-personalisation (see this post for more), you can recognize how important they are to you.
Do you have a strong ask?
There are many ways of building a strong ask. It may be that there is a list of costs associated with the project you are featuring – lengths of pipe for a water system, for example. Alternatively, there may be an overall project cost that you can split down so a donor can give towards x days running costs. Or a target set for your work at Christmas that the donor can help you to meet.
Tip: Make sure that the donor can see their gift could play a tangible role in solving the problem you’ve shared, i.e. Don’t ask for £5 to meet your target of a million pounds.
What can you do with personalisation/ultra-personalisation?
Personalising elements beyond the letter and donation form can help the donor see how much you value them (see this post for more). Ultra-personalisation might allow you to acknowledge whether you normally receive the donor’s support at Christmas – or underline why you need it if you haven’t.
Look at your budget and, volumes permitting, you might want to send out two, three or even four different versions of your pack with the budget for each reflecting potential to give (and personalising as much as you can for each).
Tip: Ultra-personalisation doesn’t need to be complicated to work. Think about the key message you want to share e.g. whether the donor gives to you at Christmas. If someone has donated annually for the last x years, the least you can do is thank them for it.
What kind of engagement can you offer?
The appeals that donors remember are those that really engage them. That may mean asking them to do something over and beyond giving a gift. It may mean giving them something to pass on to a friend. It may mean asking them more about themselves. Or it may mean offering additional information – footage or photos – online.
Here's a few things we've sent to donors at Christmas: bells, a piece of cotton wool, a hat, a map for Father Christmas. The most important thing? There was a very good reason to send them all.
Tip: ditch the glossy leaflet. Find something to send that really shows need or the great work your charity does.
Is there a Christmas theme?
People give at Christmas, who won’t give the rest of the year. So have you ‘used’ Christmas and its powerful associations: cards, presents, food, parties, family, anticipation, excitement etc. Have you talked about what Christmas is like with/without your organization?
Have you created an envelope that your donors will open?
I’ll go straight to the tip: the best one is stamped and personal. The worst one says charity appeal from the off.
What kind of letter have you got?
Is it persuasive? Emotive? Inspiring? If you read it aloud, does it sound like one person talking to another? Is it set in a way that makes it easy to read?
Tip: it’s been said before, but using your p.s. to add some urgency to response is no bad thing.
Does your pack look expensive?
Why? Lightweight stock, standard sizes look cheap and are cheap. Asking for money can jar if it doesn’t look like you need the money.
Tip: make sure there’s no blank sides of paper in your pack. It’s wasteful and there must be something you can add to make your appeal more compelling.
Is there any continuity?
From time to time, I’m asked to review a charity’s appeal output for a number of years. Take away the logo and often there’s nothing recognizable in the communications from one piece to the next. I find this rather odd. Design/style aside, are you able to fed back on what you’ve achieved since you’ve last been in touch?
Are you mailing a reminder?
Reminders tend to be cheap and bring in good returns.
Tip: Think about what you might say to persuade someone who hasn’t given to the first appeal to give this time. Do you have a shortfall in income? Is there greater urgency now a few weeks has passed? Have you any new information?
Tip: Donors often appreciate a Christmas card – think about who it might come from to give it as much value as possible.
The ultimate test – are you proud of it?
If all goes well, your appeal should be unique to your organization, because it reflects your work and your relationship with your donor.
Right that's it for now. Oh and Happy Christmas from everyone here at Bluefrog x