Published on April 2, 2014 by

The 3 biggest issues I’m seeing right now with 2014 tax appeals

Sorry to all for not being more regular with posts but I’ve been working very hard on several tax appeals – possibly even yours!

One thing I find very interesting. Sometimes more attention seems to be paid to haggling over minor phrasing than to issues that will actually make the biggest difference to appeal results. Hence this post.

The issues causing me the most concern as I try to get the best possible results for clients are these:

1. Getting appropriate stories and images

For some reason, people seem to think that getting beneficiaries or field workers to say nice things about your charity or cause makes a story. It does not.

The story must demonstrate without question that you are doing work that makes a measurable difference in the lives of beneficiaries. At the simplest level, it means showing before and after. Problem and solution.

I’ve spent many hours in the last few weeks gathering stories and doing interviews. It’s most frustrating asking for material and getting stuff back that says something like:

“I absolutely loved your program. It was fantastic and it made such a difference to me.”

Excuse me, but imagine the donor reads those words only. What do they tell the donor about the work the charity does or exactly how they helped the beneficiary? Zip, zero, nada.

However, it’s not all bad. One new client presented me with an absolutely wonderful case study. Details about life before. Info about life after. Words about how the beneficiary felt. The only possible problem was that the beneficiary looked a little too happy -  ie. not needy enough - in the photos. Apart from that, it was the story from fundraising heaven.

I looked at it and thought, “If only I could get great stories like this all the time.” I congratulated the client on giving me such great material. I was somewhat nonplussed to discover this was not typical: “We’re not normally this organised!”

2. Weak offers

A few clients want or need to raise funds that are not tied to a specific program. Great for easy disbursement of funds. Bad for fundraising.

Donors are more likely to give when they can see a tangible person, item or program they’re giving to. In that order.

I understand that not all charities can raise funds for a single program. But work with me please. Writing a letter asking the donor to give to XYZ charity is not enough. Even if you don’t want to specify a particular program, couch your offer in terms of benefits to the donor. This is especially important if your charity’s name doesn’t explicitly tell the donor what you do.

Your gift will feed 5 families this winter.

NOT

Your gift to Love All People will make a difference.

3. Crappy online service

Many charities put a lot of effort – and rightly so – into getting their direct mail right. But please don’t forget that many younger donors are giving online. By younger, I mean donors in their 40s, 50s and 60s.

In fact, I notice some of my own clients receive more donations online than through any other channel – even if the ask was made through direct mail.

So take note. You may be asking via direct mail, but many donors are opting to respond online rather than mailing back your coupon. (Mind you, it’s NOT time to do away with direct mail coupons just yet.)

So… does your website have easy to find Donate Now buttons on the home page? If you run multiple appeals, can they find the one they want to give to easily? Do you give them a seamless giving experience with a dedicated landing page and donation page? A nice confirmation screen? Tips on online donation pages are here and here.

So if you were to ask my advice on your 2014 tax appeals, I’d tell you to fix these three things first. They are not new concepts. I've written about all these things before.

3 Comments

  1. Kathryn

    Yikes June - you don't sound too happy. You must be overworked!

    • june

      Didn't mean to sound overworked - or unhappy for that matter! Just that these are common challenges for all non-profits.

  2. Sharon

    All good points June, very relevant! thanks for sharing

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