Earning the right to send year-end appeals by Carl Sylvestre

In addition to ordering our gifts on-line just before the December 25th delivery “guaranteed” deadline, one of the new rituals in the age of the internet is to receive a year-end reminder from our favorite not-for-profit organizations reminding us that it is time for our year-end tax deductible gift. They fill up our e-box every few minutes. “Time to make your end gift,” often from organizations that the last time I heard from them was year ago with the same pitch. Guess where that e-mail ended up? In a world of easy electronic disposal just how effective are these year-end mass e-mails?

As easy as it is to send these year-end messages, it is just as easy to dispose of them.  Sending e-blasts today is like a happy joy ride for those of us in the marketing and development offices around the country. Once we have an e-mail address and draft of our message, the execution is as easy as the push of a button.  It can be produced on December 31st from the comfort of the ski resort hotel’s front desk. Gone are the days when we had to prepare our year-end appeals months in advance, coordinating with the designer, the production office and clean up the mailing list.

Is it worth it to send these e-blasts?  Many will say yes.  The results may bear out this out.  With minimal financial investment, year-end donations are piling in from those wanting a last minute tax deduction. However, these gifts are not earned and through time as easy as they come in they will leave.  We are counting on having our donors make impulsive contributions to our organizations, but beware of these easy clicks.  This is hardly the way to build a robust fundraising operation.  For any organizations to grow and have traction, donor loyalty must be earned.  Donors will keep supporting your efforts if they believe that you are making an investment in them first. 

The way to make sure that the year-end blast plays dividends is to start planning on January 1st on how to make sure that the year-end messages that you will send out in December doesn’t end up in the junk e-box.  As we begin a New Year, it is time to begin mapping our relationship management strategy with our supporters.  The ability to capitalize on year-end appeals exists but it cannot be done during the last days of December. The rewards of sending out great “thank you” letters and building new relations begin on January 1st. If there is anything that we are learning from the information age, it is that loyalty matters and blasts are just a quick burst in on-going news cycle.