Well, how’d you do?
Year-end fundraising for 2017 is in the rearview mirror. Did you finish strong? Close a lot of gifts?
Every December, I’m reminded that year-end success for me and my team depends on the relationships we built and grew throughout the year.
It’s usually that simple. Good stewardship and cultivation January through October means successful asks come November and December.
Well, there isn’t a whole lot we can do about 2017 any more, right? If you had a great year, congratulations. If you didn’t, keep your head up, we’ve all been there.
Either way, it’s time to focus forward. How do you want to finish 2018?
The economy (*knock on wood*) continues to gain steam. High net worth individuals are feeling pretty good right now.
This means there’s a lot out there for you.
The question is, how will you position yourself and your organization for success this year? Will you invest time and energy today to ensure a strong finish months from now?
I’m asking myself these same questions.
Put another way: How will you prioritize donor relationships this year? Building them, growing them, deepening them. After all, this is the essence of major gifts work, isn’t it?
And central to major donor relationships is communication. You have to stay in touch with your donors and you have to initiate contact with new prospects. Constantly.
In fact, you could argue that in major gifts, this is the job—using communication to start and grow relationships.
Picture yourself ten months from now.
The end of the year is approaching and you and your team are ready for it. Your asks, your proposal strategy—they’re all mapped out. Your pipeline is fuller than it’s ever been before because of all the relationships you’ve nurtured over the course of the year. The numbers game is tilted to your advantage.
You make your year-end asks with absolute confidence, knowing that you’ve been preparing for this all year. You’ve already done the heavy lifting.
I want to help you get off to a strong start in 2018. Why? Because I want you to close more and bigger gifts this year, especially come November and December!
Donor communication will be a primary driver of your success.
And so, for now, we’re going to get ruthlessly practical. We’re going to drill down and focus on just one communication channel…
That’s right. Why email? Because the world runs on it!
Any guess how many emails are sent worldwide in a given day?
Over 215 billion, according to the Radicati Group. That’s more than 149 million emails sent per minute. These numbers hurt my head a little bit.
Now, yes, a lot of that is spam. But, spam aside, think about the amount of email you receive compared to the amount that actually gets your attention.
Now think about your donors and prospects. They’re busy, successful people. They get hundreds of emails a day: from investors, customers, coworkers, business partners, family, friends—the list could go on.
Where do you and your organization fall on their list of priorities? Remember, many of the people emailing your donors and prospects want something from them. Just like you, the fundraiser.
Getting a busy person’s attention is a huge challenge, but it’s critical to your work—to your ability to get meetings, nurture relationships, and close the gifts you need to reach your goals.
Email can be an incredibly powerful weapon in the battle for attention. But what separates the opened from the unopened—those that get a reply from those that don’t?
Given the volume of email you send, what would it mean for you to master this ever-important tool?
What if you could incorporate more proven techniques and best practices from the worlds of sales and persuasion science into your writing?
I want Fearless Fundraising’s readers to be supremely confident in what they say and how they say it (or write it) when interacting with their donors and prospects—every time.
So, let’s get started.
3 keys for writing to busy, important people (aka All your top prospects)
Yes, cutting through the clutter can be a challenge. But email is still a tremendous opportunity.
Busy people get a lot of it, but they still reply to the best ones.
I’m going to give you three quick tips for writing messages that not only get read, but generate a response.
And then I’m going to give you a sample that uses these techniques. It’s one of my “go-to,” word-for-word templates. Copy it, paste it, tweak it – make it work for you.
Here we go.
1. Make it relevant
Make your emails as relevant as possible to your prospects. All they really want to know is Why me? or What does this person want from me?
So, make it about them! Answer those questions.
And do it early! If your prospect has to wade through paragraphs of introductory material you’ll probably lose them.
Your subject line, in particular, needs to be relevant. Don’t just put your organization’s name in the subject line! We’ll take a much deeper dive into subject lines in the days ahead.
Here are some other ideas for making your emails more relevant:
- Leverage a referral
- Mention a mutual acquaintance
- Applaud your prospect for an accomplishment
- Ask for advice related to her area of expertise
- Propose a partnership opportunity that will generate good PR for his business
2. Warm and friendly wins the day
In looking back over some emails I sent years ago, I noticed something strange: the bigger the prospect, the more I used formal language. Whether consciously or unconsciously, I was trying to sound smarter for my top prospects. Forced and awkward is a better description.
What happens when we encounter this kind of language?
Defenses go up. We assume the person has something to hide and/or is trying to sell us something.
Forget about the academic writing you learned in school. As a gift officer, your goal is to connect with a person, not impress a professor. Write like a human being. Write the way you talk.
3. Make it easy
In addition to being easy to read and understand, you want your email to be easy to respond to. Best case scenario: Your busy, time-constrained donor is able to reply to your note with a simple “Sounds great” or “Sure, next Tuesday works for me.”
How do you get there?
- Focus. Don’t make your email about more than one thing. Don’t ask multiple questions. Figure out what you want and stay focused.
- Economize. Less is more if you’re reaching out cold. Get to the point and avoid long paragraphs of introductory material. Length is only okay if you’re writing about something that is highly relevant to your prospect.
- Do the heavy lifting—particularly with logistics. This means you’re the one suggesting meeting dates, times, and locations. Don’t make your prospect figure it all out. When working across time zones, convert everything into your recipient’s time. Don’t make him do the mental math.
Steal this template
Want to see what these principles look like in action?
Here’s my gift to you. It’s an email template I use almost every day to set up meetings with new prospects—most of whom are incredibly busy.
Steal it! It’s yours to copy and paste.
More freebies are on the way
There’s more great stuff coming. You can’t talk email communication without talking subject lines. We’ll do this tomorrow and I’ll share some of my favorites.
The internet’s not lacking in information about email subject lines. Most of it, however, is completely irrelevant to the type of email you send as a gift officer.
I’ll tell you which common rules of thumb could actually work against you.
And later in the week, you’ll get more free templates. Stick around!