This disappointing annual appeal came across my desk the other day. It’s disappointing because this educational institution is taking the easy and unproductive way out. They asked me to use the same list as they mailed to last year. I tried to initiate a conversation with suggestions for improving the message and doing some tactical things within the body of the letter. “Nah, our donors don’t respond to that sort of thing,” was the response I got. Here, (with my comments underlined, italicized and in parentheses is the letter—if nothing else, it’s a great example of how to ensure poor results):
Dear Envelope Name,
The 2016-2017 Cardinal Ron Rescigno Alumni Class Challenge is officially underway. Starting this year, the Irish Alumni Association would like to challenge all alumni, from every class, to give to the Education Today, Leading Tomorrow Annual Fund in support of financial aid (sorry, but this is too non-specific. Donors want to know specifics of where and how their funds will be used. Gee, they didn’t even thank me or acknowledge the fact that I gave last year and now they’re asking for another gift—I wonder if they have a record of my last gift).
Today, graduates are contributing more than ever to help deserving young men and women attend our school. At the conclusion of the Annual Fund (and just when is that?), one class will be awarded the top class and challenge winner. (Wow, this is some exciting news I’m receiving right here—yawn!)
For over 80 years, students have been coming to our school with big dreams. (I sure do wish I could read about one of those students and how my past gifts have helped a student, any student, realize his or her dreams).
Throughout their 4 years, these young men and women gain experience and knowledge which gives them a solid foundation for realizing their dreams. (Please, won’t you tell me a story about one of them?!) As Alumni, we are familiar with how we were best prepared for our future. What you may not know is, for many a Catholic education is only made possible through financial aid from our alumni and friends. One-hundred percent of alumni contributions to the Annual Fund provide tuition assistance for students. (this is important info…it shouldn’t be buried—why not set it off in a margin to highlight it?)
The Class Challenge begins now and today I ask you to join me in the spirit of competition with a gift to the Annual Fund (this should be bolded –it’s the most important part of the letter).. (How much are they asking me for—there’s no suggested gift amount; I’d like to give more than I did last year, but I don’t remember how much I gave back then—oh well, I’ll just send $10.00.)
Every gift is meaningful (while it is true that every gift is meaningful, what if this donor’s last gift was $250 and because you haven’t referenced it, you only get $10 this year?)and allows us to provide the very best Catholic education year after year. May God bless you.
All the best,
Director of Alumni Relations
Other things missing from this letter:
What is the problem that the donor’s gift will help to solve?
What is the expected impact that my gift will have?
When donor’s read these letters, they scan; they look for things in bold or italics, pictures – there were none and a P.S. which restates the reason for the letter and THE ASK.
I’d welcome your suggestions also. Thanks for letting me vent!