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10 Ways to Evolve Your Appeal in Uncertain Times

female doctor wearing a face mask looking out a hospital window

According to a statistic published by Statista, 98% of Americans say they made changes to their lifestyle because of COVID-19. How we interact with others and conduct business will be — for the foreseeable future — different. 

Sometimes dramatically.

Consider your appeal donors. Many of their daily routines have turned on a dime and so have their expectations of how organizations should speak to them.

Speaking of turning on a dime, how are your appeal programs shaping up? COVID-19 forced hospitals and other healthcare providers to take a long, hard look at their fundraising efforts to determine: What stays? What goes? What’s changed? What’s new?

Pro tips for appeals

To help keep you on track to meet your organization’s fundraising goal(s), we’ve pulled together 10 tips to help you drive your annual appeals forward in these uncertain times.

1. Remember: Never stop asking. “That’s a mistake that comes from thinking about your donors as your financiers instead of your partners,” says Betsy Steward, Senior Consultant at the Heller Fundraising Group. “Your donors believe in your mission, and it matters to them if you’re successful or not in making the changes to the world that they want to see.” (So don’t leave them out of the conversation during unprecedented times.)

2. Understand: Your appeal is essential. Your request for financial support is not an inconvenience. It's not poorly-timed, either.  It's a necessity. Your donors — and the rest of the world — know things have been difficult for healthcare providers. ”For many donors, giving is a key part of them feeling human. They can be generous, despite the scarcity around them," says fundraising expert Marc Pitman.

3. Provide useful information. Always. A leading reason why donors stop giving is because they no longer feel connected to the organization. Before you send anything — digital or print — take time to consider what your donors want to hear.

For example, elective procedures are responsible for driving the majority of a provider's revenue. The pandemic, however, caused patients and doctors to delay care and consider alternative treatment plans. You may know this all too well. Do your donors? 

According to The 2018 U.S. Trust Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy, “when wealthy donors reported being more knowledgeable, they also tended to be more personally fulfilled from their charitable activity, as well as more likely to give more.”

4. Paint a clear picture of their impact. Found in the same report, wealthy donors believe giving is a highly effective way to create change, yet 54% of those who give don’t know what kind of a difference their gifts make. Here’s an opportunity to provide some transparency and specifics around ways  donor contributions are used. This may also serve to increase donor confidence.

5. Connect frontliners with content makers to create impact stories. Impact stories are happening every single day in and around your facilities. These stories are human and show your mission in action. Lean on those who can provide first-hand, near real-time accounts, otherwise the details may become muddied, less effective or, even worse, inaccurate.

6. Basic personalization still matters. You know your donors’ names. Use them. “Dear Friend” or “Dear Donor” are not exactly salutations that scream: we know you; we’re thankful for you. A tailored approach to each donor will only help to encourage engagement, trust and appreciation (all good things). 

7. Double down on your mission. The purpose your organization serves is one that’s worth reaffirming. As you strengthen your case for support, showcase your mission and draw parallels to your organization’s response to the current health situation.

8. Engage physically; simplify digitally. According to MobileCause, donors are three times more likely to give online in response to a direct mail appeal than an e-appeal. Direct mail creates a high-value, tangible interaction with donors. This touchpoint can serve as a campaign catalyst that ultimately directs donors to give online, on any device, at any time.

9. It’s okay to break some grammar rules. Claire Axelrad, Chief Fundraising Coach at Bloomerang, says, “Every place you’re tempted to put in a contraction, do so. If you want to begin a sentence with ‘and’ or ‘but,’ go right ahead. If you want to have a one-word sentence, that’s just fine. If your spell check tells you you’ve got a sentence fragment, you should ‘consider revising’ or ignore it.” Your appeal copy should also be legible (think 14-point minimums), avoid industry jargon, and sound like it's coming from an actual human being. 

10. You don’t have to go it alone. The unknowns will continue to pile up. Seeking support externally can help you avoid frustration, remain productive, and meet your goals. Additional reasons for outsourcing some or all of your appeals programs to a proven partner include: access to accountable experts and the latest technology, heightened speed to market, industry-specific experience, and scalability.

It will always be about building relationships 

Our outlook on “business as usual" has changed. But in the end, your appeal program — at its core — must always be about building the relationships you have with your donors. There’s no reason that should change. 

 

Tom Wozniak is the Vice President of National Healthcare Sales at RRD. Head here to learn more about RRD's full suite of communications solutions for healthcare providers