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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

9 Important Rules for a Successful Annual Appeal Letter – Part II

While the purpose of your annual appeal is to raise money, it is also to solicit and cultivate individual donors. These donors become the backbone of support for your organization’s maintenance and growth as they will ultimately represent 80% of the source of donated income. The following suggestions are meant as a guideline. Your board and development committee are encouraged to add to this outline given their knowledge of the community.

  • Timing – Hold your annual appeal the same time each year. Consider tying the timing to a significant milestone. Once established, keep the timing consistent. Many annual appeals are held at the end of the calendar year as individual donors are rounding off their annual tax deductible contributions. This is unnecessary and does not always guarantee a higher return. 
  • Purpose – Each year, identify a specific need that the annual appeal will support. It can be any activity that supports the strategic plan. Be sure to fully explain it in the “ask” document. It is also advisable to give donors the opportunity to contribute to an endowment fund. For example, you might state that a certain portion of each gift goes to the endowment to ensure that the organization continues to carry out its mission.
  • Goal – Establish and clearly state a monetary goal for each annual appeal. Documentation of need can be attached to the letter. In any year, it is perfectly fine and even encouraged to celebrate the success of previous campaigns. 
  • Challenge Gifts – Before you go to the community for an annual appeal, solicit the board and several significant supporters. Mention the gifts from your own agency resources, family, or friends as a percentage of the goal raised in any solicitation. 
  • Database – Previous donors, vendors, tenants, community partners, and other supporters identified by the Board will form the beginnings of a database. Have your development committee spend time identifying names to be added to the database. 
  • Solicitation Packet – An appeal letter, a return card and envelope, and an information piece about your organization are standard to a solicitation. Names gathered from return cards can be used for growing the database, inviting people to special events, and mailing newsletters and activity updates. Contact information requests should always include email addresses.
  • Appeal Duration – The development committee should determine the appeal’s length. Most appeals peak between 45 to 60 days. 
  • Acknowledgements – Acknowledge all gifts as soon as possible; best practice is within 48 hours of receipt. You can use a form letter, but have it personally signed by the board president or development committee chairperson. Carefully check the spelling of every name from a check or return card.
  • Publicity – Publicly announce the campaign’s success. This builds ongoing community credibility and gives a sense of appreciation to those who worked on the appeal.

We can suggest additional strategies to help you produce a more effective annual appeal. Call Bonny Anderson at (302) 530-6806 today to boost your rate of positive responses. Visit our website for more on how we help.

Recipes and Cooking Hints: Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Speaking of comfort food who doesn’t remember this…simple and still great time after time.

  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 1 14/15 oz. can pineapple(chunks, rounds ,or crushed, it doesn’t matter).
  • ¼ c. butter
  • 2/3c. brown sugar
  1. Prepare cake mix according to directions****use pineapple juice from can with water to make up the amt. of liquid calledfor in the mix
  2. In an oblong baking dish melt brown sugar in butter in a 300 oven; mix well to cover bottom of baking dish.
  3. Spread drained pineapple over brown sugar/butter saving juice for cake mix
  4. Pour cake mix over pineapple and bake according to box directions.
  5. Remove from oven and invert to have pineapple on top and to let sugar drizzle through the cake.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

7 Important Rules for a Successful Annual Appeal Letter – Part I

Are you conducting an end-of-year annual appeal? If so, you need to plan now. Here’s how to get prospective donors to open the envelope, read the contents, and take action.

Mind your mailing list: Is it up-to-date with current information? Did you verify that all names are spelled correctly? Do you update your list regularly?

Make a great first impression: Do you want the addressee to recognize you? Look at the solicitations you receive—what impressions do they leave?

Maximize the P.S.: Believe it or not, 90% of recipients read the P.S. first! Put your most important message in the body of the letter and in the P.S. 

Avoid Eye Strain: Today, a 14 pt. font is the minimum. Don’t make the reader squint.

Ask more than once and make it reader-centric: Don’t wait until the last paragraph to make your request. After all, the ask is why you are writing. Reminders of what their donation will achieve should be sprinkled throughout. Here are some ideas:
·        “you make it possible”
·        “can’t do it without you”
·        “please join me”
Make sure you have defined the “it.”

Write like people talk: Read the letter out loud to someone. Is it coherent and does it flow? You are not writing Moby Dick; you are making a 21st century appeal for funds.

Follow up: After you write your thank-you notes and send the IRS letter, you need to tell donors what you did with their money. This is part of ongoing cultivation and communication.

We have many specific strategies to help you write a more effective annual appeal letter. Call MacIntyre Associates today at (302) 530-6806 to boost your rate of positive responses. We’re here to help. Visit our website.

Recipes and Cooking Hints: Orzo Salad

This is a great dish for a buffet or as a side dish. Easy to make and fun to prepare with children. The vinaigrette is key to the taste. The flavors are complex so don’t omit the basil and mint.

  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 ½ c. orzo
  • 1 15oz. can garbanzo beans
  • 1 ½ cups of mixed grape or teardrop tomatoes, split
  • ¾ c. chopped red onion
  • ½ c. fresh basil leaves
  • ¼ c. fresh mint leaves
1. Bring stock to a boil, cook orzo for about 7 minutes, until done but firm (al dente). Stir frequently. 2. Strain and let cool slightly.
3. Mix in vegetables and herbs.
4. Add vinaigrette to coat lightly.
5. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

  • ½ c. red wine
  • ¼ c. lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. honey
  • 1 c. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • ¾ tsp black pepper
1. Mix all ingredients in a blender adding olive oil last and slowly with machine running on low speed. Check for seasoning.
2. Warm orzo will absorb vinaigrette so reserve some to add before serving if needed.
Salad is best if made several hours before serving.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Guest Blog: Musings of an Interim Executive Director

Late last fall, I accepted a request to serve as interim executive director of a well-known childcare center in our area. The previous director, a highly capable manager who was well-liked and respected by staff, board and parents, was leaving to take on a new challenge and the board decided to bring on an interim for the duration of their search process, which lasted roughly three months. My job was basically to keep the ship sailing roughly west while using my outsider perspective to assess the organization and recommend steps to strengthen it.

According to JR Yeager in the CompassPoint Nonprofit Services blogpost, So You Want to be an Interim Executive Director, the “ultimate goal as an interim executive during a leadership transition is to create the most stable platform possible for the next executive. This means a strong board, a functioning staff, good internal systems, and healthy funder and community relationships.”

Depending on the length of the interim, that’s a pretty tall order. Transitions are a period of tremendous uncertainty when organizational culture is at its most fragile. This is especially true with small nonprofits and notoriously complicated when the transition involves the departure of a founder.

Interim by definition means temporary and unless board and staff are handled with finesse, there can be a lot of pushback, both overt and indirect. Here are a few suggestions for making the most of the interim experience:

1.     Observe, ask questions and listen carefully. Pay attention to the roles that staff members play within the culture, not just those defined by their job title. Take time to learn about the rites, rituals and ceremonies that define the organization. How do people communicate within the organization as well as to their constituents?
2.     Let the staff know that, as far as you are concerned, they are the experts regarding their organization. No matter what your experience related to other organizations, no one knows the organization like the folks in the trenches day to day. Let them know you understand, respect their expertise, and that you will seek the benefit of their knowledge, experience and wisdom as you get to know the organization.
3.     In articles about interim directorship, much is made about the opportunity to clear out the dead wood if someone is underperforming or undermining the culture.  However, the interim also has the opportunity to compliment good work, notice if someone has talents that are not being utilized or would perform betterin a different position and mentor staff members who are growing in their roles.   Making sure that people are utilizing their strengths is just as important for creating a stable platform for the new ED, and it builds morale and loyalty.
4.     The interim’s outsider perspective can be in invaluable in observing the organization’s systems and identifying ways to be more efficient and effective.  However, the truth is people hate change and will be poised to pushback unless they feel they have been invited to collaborate to develop a more effective approach. Listening to board and staff perspectives on what’s not working and asking leading questions about what would work and how it could be made to happen before offering suggestions is more likely to win the interim allies when changing systems.
5.     When it comes to marketing and development, the number of board and staff members who underestimate their value as ambassadors and advocates of the organization is surprising. No matter how long the tenure, one of the best opportunities for any interim director is to help those closest to the organization recognize the value of their own passion and commitment as it applies to making friends and increasing funding for the organization.

So how did the interim experience end for the childcare center? In a surprising turn of events, the new challenge did not work out for the departing executive director. He requested to be included in the list of candidates and the board voted to hire him back, to the general delight of the staff and families.

This interim period provided the director an opportunity to step back and gain a fresh perspective.  Coupled with the insights gained during my tenure, the center is moving forward with renewed energy.

Donna H. Melton, Prinicipal 
Just in Time! Communications

Donna Melton and Just in Time! Communications are collaborative partners of MacIntyre Associates.