Write Your Best Appeal Yet with These Tips

Consider your most recent fundraising appeal. How did it go? Did it hit the right note? Or did it not quite achieve what you hoped it would?

When it comes to appeal letters, small changes can make a big difference. Here are some helpful tips to consider before you sit down to write your next appeal.

Content is Critical

  • Be Donor-Centric

When writing an appeal letter for your organization, it’s easy to fall into writing about your organization too much. Instead, keep the focus on the donor. Your donors will want to know some details. However, focusing on donors and the impact of their gifts will keep them engaged with your appeal longer.

The hierarchy of your appeal content should be as follows:

  1. The donor and the effect of their giving
  2. The cause
  3. Your organization
  • Write to ONE Person

Your message may apply to many donors. But write as if you’re speaking to just one: the donor who’s holding your letter in their hands. You want that one donor to feel that they’re the most important part of the appeal, and that their individual gift matters.

  • Focus on one USP (Unique Selling Proposition)

Here, we take a tip from the marketing world. Sometimes, an appeal letter (or an ad) is asking the intended audience to do several different things. If you’ve got too many different calls to action, a donor is less likely to respond to any of them. It’s best to keep your focus on one major point, the one action you want the donor to take or a compelling reason for them to take that action: your USP.

And, mention your USP many times throughout the letter. Readers tend to skim and jump around an appeal letter, rarely reading it from beginning to end initially. If you place your USP in multiple locations (try making it bold or underlining it!) a reader is more likely to understand your message and remember it.

Maybe your call to action or USP is asking for gifts to build a new facility. Make sure your letter communicates what the facility is, why it’s important it be built, and what outcomes it will achieve. Help give the donor some context about why their gift is needed.

  • Make Your Ask Early in the Appeal

As we mentioned, recipients are not very likely to begin reading your letter at the beginning. And if they’re interested enough, after skimming the letter, to go back and read from the beginning, it doesn’t mean they’ll finish reading the entire thing. Generally, it’s recommended to make your ask within the first 1 to 3 paragraphs. While you may need to set the context of the letter a bit to make the reasons for the ask more compelling, you want to make it clear early on what you are asking of your donors.

  • Be Relatable

An appeal letter can sound professional without feeling formal. You want the donor to feel they can relate to your organization and its mission. Don’t be afraid to write in a conversational tone and try to avoid lots of technical words or jargon.

We build connection with those around us by sharing our stories and experiences. Stories work well in appeal letters, too! (Coffee photo created by freepik – www.freepik.com)

One way that we help make ourselves relatable to others is by telling stories. You could frame your appeal around the story of someone who has been positively affected by your organization. A good story can go a long way toward making your message memorable and relevant for the donor.

Improving Appeal Readability

  • Short Paragraphs Have Long Impact

When faced with a large block of text, what do you do? Maybe you sigh, and slog through it if you have to. Or maybe you skip over it altogether, looking for smaller areas of text that you can read more quickly.

On the other hand, shorter paragraphs, ideally of one to two sentences, are quicker to read and are more likely to be read. Shorter sentences also help to create a sense of urgency in your message.

  • Prepare for Skimmers!

I hate to tell you this, but the majority of readers will skim your letter, at least at first—sorry! However, you can write your letter with skimmers in mind to make sure they’ll catch the important points and be more engaged. Try to:

  1. Write in single sentence paragraphs
  2. Bold or underline the critical parts of the text you want the donor to see
  3. Use bullets to list out short key points, rather than writing them as one long sentence
  • Maintain A Sense of Urgency

A donor understands that your nonprofit needs gifts in order to function. But why do you need their funds right now? You want your copy to reflect that there is limited time to make a gift in order for things to happen; or, that things can’t happen until that gift is made.

  • Write With Grade Level in Mind

Have you heard of Flesch-Kincaid? This is a scale that determines how easy or difficult it is to read a piece of written material. You can easily measure the Flesch-Kincaid level of your appeal letter in Microsoft Word.

There are two numbers to take note of – the Flesch Reading level, a scale of 1 to 100, measures the general ease of readability. The higher the number, the easier your text is to read.

The Flesch-Kincaid level focuses on the readability of text by grade level. It’s recommended that when communicating with a general audience, a piece be written between a 6th and 8th grade reading level. It can be a bit misleading, as you may think that writing to a 6th grade level means you’re talking down to your audience. Don’t worry—writing at this level helps to ensure you’ll be understood by a wider audience. And it rarely sounds as if you’re talking down. (For example, this blog was written at a grade level of 7.9)

  • Caption Your Photos

If you include photos, it’s best practice to provide captions. Captions are a portion of a letter that are often read, and they can help add a personal touch to the picture and tell your story.

The Mailing Side

This reply card from Giffords PAC has been printed with the recipients contact info (grayed out), a call to action, common gift amounts for the donor to select, and a link to donate online.

The following mailing format is generally considered the most successful in terms of response rates:

  • A Personalized Letter: this means the letter is addressed to “Dear Jane” rather than “Dear Friend.” You can also have slightly different versions of a letter with certain sentences or paragraphs personalized for different segments of your audience.
  • Outer #10 Envelope with Teaser Copy: adding a tagline or teaser about what’s inside the envelope helps to provide interest and increase the chances an envelope will be opened.
  • Separate Reply or Donor Card: having a donor card that’s printed with your call to action, some pre-printed gift amounts, and is easy to fill out increases the chance that the donor will make a gift on the spot. A good tip is to personalize the donor card as well—by prepopulating the card with the donor’s contact information, it’s even easier to fill out the card. The donor simply selects their gift amount and sends off the gift in…
  • Your included remittance envelope printed with your mailing info.

If some of your recent appeals didn’t perform as well as you’d hoped, compare them to this list and see where there may be room for improvement. Try any one (or all) of these tips and track how response rates change!

At Paw Print, we specialize in direct mail fundraising appeal production. Give us a call at 802-865-2872 for assistance with designing, writing, printing, and mailing your next appeal.

Reach New Heights with Hiking Themed Promo

Couple hiking using branded promotional products

Hiking is one of Vermont’s most popular Summer activities. We’re called the Green Mountain State for a reason! If outdoor lovers make up your client base, promotional products designed for activities like hiking are an ideal choice for giveaways and thank you gifts. Here are some of our favorite hiking-related items available for branding.

1) Backpacks

Logoed Backpack for hiking

A durable backpack is a must-have for any hiker. A drawstring pack may be perfect for a short trek, while a zippered pack with comfortable straps and lots of pockets is ideal for longer climbs. You can even put your logo on packs with built in water containers. Branded bags also generate the most impressions per item of any promotional piece.

2) Water Bottle

Branded waterbottle

Whatever activity your audience participates in during the Summer months, it’s essential to stay hydrated. An insulated bottle is durable enough to make it to the top of any mountain and will help to keep beverages cold throughout a day-long adventure.

3) Flashlight

Black branded flashlight

Being on top of a mountain is one of the best places to watch sunrises and sunsets. But it also means part of your hike must be completed in the dark. A branded flashlight can be kept in the car for emergencies and added to a hiking pack to make getting up and down the mountain in the dark a little safer.

4) First Aid Kit

Red first aid kit with white logo

With an activity like hiking, cuts and scrapes are always possible. A first aid kit can be clipped to your branded pack, showing your audience you always have their safety in mind.

5) Sunscreen, Lip Balm, and Bug Repellent

Branded sunscreen and lip balm combination for hiking

We may love the outdoors, but we have to protect ourselves from the elements. Branded sunscreen, lip balm, and bug repellents are handy for use on the go and can clip right to a backpack for easy access and visibility of your logo.

6) Multitool, Compass, & Carabiner

Multitool keychain in red, silver, and blue

Help your customers be prepared for anything the great outdoors can throw at them with accessories like multitools, carabiners, and compasses.

7) Power Bank

Branded power bank in the shape of a stone
A fun combination of nature and technology– a power bank that looks like a stone!

Your audience may be spending time in the great outdoors, but technology is never far from their hands. You can give them the power to recharge their devices on the go with a branded power bank.

8) Branded Socks

Custom ankle socks

Comfortable footwear is a must-have for any trek. Branded socks are one of the most fun and functional promotional items, sure to bring a smile to any recipient’s face. And they’re available in a variety of styles, including custom ankle socks, boot socks, and ski socks.

9) Hats & Caps

Apparel is the most popular promotional product category. Ball caps protect our faces from the sun, while a knitted cap keeps heads warm on Autumn hikes. A quality cap is sure to be a favorite accessory with your clients for years to come.

While any promotional piece can have an element of fun to it, promotional items designed with your client’s favorite hobbies in mind can help associate your brand with leisure, activity, and entertainment. Contact Sarah, our Promotional Branding Specialist, to discuss ways you can brand for the Summer with promotional products.

5 Step Plan to Cultivate More Major Donors

Major gifts can provide major opportunities for nonprofit organizations. But the prospect of asking someone to make a substantial gift to your organization may seem daunting. However, inspiring an individual to become a major donor may not be as overwhelming as you think.

At the core of a major gift is a relationship with your donor built on trust and stewardship. An individual isn’t likely to give $10,000 out of the blue, and you wouldn’t ask someone for a gift of that size whom you’d never met. But when you invest the time to build and cultivate the relationship, amazing things can happen.

Major donors have significant benefits for your nonprofit beyond the financial gift. But how do you find a major donor? And how to you get to that big ask?

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10 Essential Outdoor Promotional Products

Golf course man and woman using branded promotional products

Summer has arrived, with Vermonters trading winter coats and skis for flip flops and camping gear. This season is especially hot for outdoor promotional products, with a variety of items available for branding that emphasize being active and enjoying all that the outdoors has to offer.

Here are 10 of our favorite picks for branded outdoor promotional products.

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A Fun History of Promo: The Frisbee

Red branded frisbee

What does the term “branded promotional product” mean to you? It may bring to mind the basics: pens, t-shirts, and mugs. But it doesn’t stop there. Items for fun and play, like Frisbees, can also be decorated with your logo and used to send a unique message.

The Frisbee has a long history, from ancient sport to college pastime to its use as an advertising tool and promotional product. Let’s toss things back in time in our next installment of A Fun History of Promo.

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8 Steps to an Effective Business Card

woman pointing at business card
Logo psd created by Freepik

The business card is an old dog that’s learned quite a few new tricks.

A lot of different print work comes through our doors at Paw Print, but business cards consistently remain the most popular order. Business cards trace their roots back to 15th century China, when visitors left “visiting cards” at the homes of businessmen they hoped to meet with. Over the centuries these cards evolved to convey a variety of information, but one thing remained constant: they were designed to make an impression.

Often a business card is one of the first things a customer or potential client will receive from you. A well-designed business card can go a long way towards creating a favorable impression of your business, as well as generating engaging conversations between you and your customers.

Why Should You Print Business Cards?

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Eco-Friendly Promotional Products Speak Volumes

Eco-Friendly Promo Header

What does it mean to you to be a Vermonter? One thing that has always been a piece of the Vermont brand, and that’s a part of my philosophy, is minimizing our environmental impact. Vermont is overflowing with locally produced items that breathe quality and sustainability. It’s an essential part of who we are as a community.

In the business world, it’s crucial that you can back up your claims.  You want your marketing, including promotional products, to accurately reflect your brand and its core beliefs. If your company has an eco-friendly focus and you’re looking to market your brand with promotional products, there are several options available produced with sustainability in mind.

This is especially important in today’s market due to the up and coming generation – Gen Z. Expected to make up 40% of the U.S. consumer market by 2020, members of Gen Z consistently list a company’s values as a top factor in choosing whether to work with that company. Those values include both social and environmental responsibility.

With that in mind, we created our Promo with a Purpose campaign to highlight promotional products that are made with a focus on sustainability and reusability.

Explore our ultimate guide to eco-friendly promotional products below!

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Paw Print & Mail Voted Best Commercial Printer in Vermont Business Magazine’s 2019 Best of Business Awards 

Paw Print & Mail is honored to be the recipient of Vermont Business Magazine’s 2019 Best of Business Award for Best Commercial Printer!

The Best of Business (BOB) Awards is a program created by Vermont Business Magazine (VBM)to honor the best Vermont companies in over 100 categories. VBM surveys its subscribers, asking them to vote for the businesses they trust most.

With close to 13,000 votes placed for the 2019 awards, we’re proud to see our name alongside so many distinguished local businesses, including some of our clients! You can view the full list of winners here.

This is the third year VBM has held the BOB Awards, and the first year to include a category for Best Commercial Printer.

We are thankful for those who voted for us, for our wonderful clients, and for our hardworking team!

Top 5 Reasons Your Customers Keep Promotional Products

Considering using promotional products to market your business? With so many different items available for branding, there’s sure to be a product that’s the perfect fit for your brand’s personality, which you can put to work to promote your company or organization.

But before you buy just any logoed product, consider this. Your promotional products are going to have the most impact, and lead to the most success for your business, if they are regularly used by the recipients.

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The (Fun) History of The Branded Tote Bag

Young woman smiling and holding blue branded tote bag

Searching for logo branded items? These days, the possibilities are almost endless. It’s easier than ever to find an item that represents your brand and your message.

The promotional products industry is a massive, global industry. And it owes its launch to a basic product: the branded tote bag.

Continue reading “The (Fun) History of The Branded Tote Bag”