Fundraising news, ideas and inspiration for professional charity fundraisers

12 tips for fundraisers at Christmas

12 tips for fundraisers at Christmas

Kevin Baughen and Craig Linton

In the run up to Christmas, we’ve decided to put our heads together with Craig LintonThe Fundraising Detective to work through some of the examples of various charity and fundraising communications we’ve seen recently and try to share the 12 tips we think they’ve taught us.

Some will be new and we expect some will be downright obvious, but it’s always worth being reminded of the things that work or that can scupper our results, right.  We also want to try and put some thought around the examples to help folks put the ideas into practices (rather than just share an image of a direct mail pack).

So here goes with our first three tips

1.   Get the timing and the context of your messages right

This sounds like some grand marketing theory but this simply means using the tools your audience prefers and, when it suits your objectives, put your messages into a context that your audience is perhaps expecting or will at least respond to more warmly.

For example, we received this email campaign from Save The Children which transforms a ‘typical’ Christmas appeal into a Christmas shopping / gift ideas campaign in support of the cause.  The subject line “Stuck for Ideas for Christmas Gifts and the sender being the charity actually made me open it as I do support the charity and I am indeed looking for Christmas gifts!

2.   Don’t be too clever 

Remember that we should be writing or talking in the way best suited to illicit the action we want from the audience.  That means being clear but also understanding the audience we’re aiming for…

Putting multiple asks in one appeal or campaigning communication nearly always reduces response rates.  We know this is old news so why do folks keep doing it?  Using PR, social media, newsletters etc to educate and inform your audience leaves the campaign materials to focus on persuading them to act.

A small community-garden charity, FOOD from the SKY asks for volunteers on their website only if they’re unreasonable… now this might seem unwelcoming and counter-intuitive but I suspect they know the kinds of people they want to welcome to and who would thrive within their initiative.  Perhaps the message is therefore targeted at an audience with a slightly quirkier view of life?

Our last example is a favourite of ours – branding.  If we are too clever with our branding, how will our audiences be able to relate to us, our causes or what we do for people?  A good example of this is the increasing number of “Social Action Organisations” that are springing up… what exactly does this mean?  How helpful is the title to communicators and fundraisers?

The folks at Beatbullying have created a new ‘parent’ brand that overarches all of their services – We’re Altogether Better – which tries to encompass what being a social actions organisation is all about.  But they’ve maintained the well-known service brands they have underneath the parent brand so as not to lose any of the positive legacy they have built up over the years.  In real terms this means they are still fundraising for brands that their audiences understand and can tangibly relate to, like Beatbullying and CyberMentors.  Very sensible.

3.   Check, check and double-check

Obvious one really but… if you have a fulfilment piece, free gift or even a response envelope to go with your direct mailings, make sure they are actually included in the envelope!

In the last week we’ve received two letters from Sainsbury’s Bank instructing us to use a response envelope (BRE) that wasn’t included.  And, unfortunately, we’ve received two Christmas appeals from well-known charities (who shall remain nameless but I suspect you know who you are) one of which was missing the free Christmas card and the other our magical Christmas pen.

We know Facebook and text messaging mean that no-one checks anything for accuracy anymore but it’s still a great idea to make sure that when we’re asking our audiences for action, we uphold our end of the ‘ask’, no?

Watch out for the next instalment…


Thanks this week to the following for the examples:

Tara @BitsOfOurs

Amanda Baughen

Kevin is the founder of Bottom Line Ideas and has a deep-rooted passion for ideas that actually work in the real world. Those ideas help charities of all shapes and sizes to get their stories and messages to the audiences they need to hear them. And then persuade them to act!

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