Brand Insights

For Health Science Executives

Part One: Creating An Annual Appeal For Your Research Institution That Resonates With Donors

Part One: Creating An Annual Appeal For Your Research Institution That Resonates With Donors

By Karan Cushman, October 25, 2012

Igniting a connecting with donors is key to the success of your research institution’s next annual appeal. Here are a few tips for how and when to reach out:

Cultivate A Year-Round Donor Relationship
Many organizations put a substantial focus on the annual appeal – as the ONE big ask of the year. While it can be an important part of your overall funding plan, the most successful fundraising comes from building a long-term relationship with donors that is meaningful, mutually beneficial and nurtured year-round.

Ignite Their Passion For Your Work
Potential donors need to be inspired by your research. They need to understand how the work you are doing is advancing science and improving human health. This takes time and is part of a building a robust donor stewardship program. By cultivating donors, getting to know them and learn what they are passionate about, you will become more effective at igniting their passion for your work – over and over. Done well, when your annual appeal arrives they will embrace the challenge.

Present More Opportunities To Make A Difference
While many donors make contributions at the end of the year, part of building a vibrant donor stewardship program is presenting multiple opportunities throughout the year for donors to learn about your research findings and make contributions towards your progress. Organizations like the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory mail both a spring and fall appeal with the messages between the two carefully linked.

What Time of Year is Best to Reach Your Donors?
If you’ve done your homework above, anytime (other than the peak summer months of July and August) is a good time to reach donors through the mail. When it comes to annual appeals, fall is traditionally when most organizations solicit and also when most funds are received.

Nearly 40 percent of charitable gifts are reportedly made during the last two months of the year. But you have to wonder – is that because so many appeals are going out in the fall? It may be worth reconsidering your timing given that so many name-brand charities (American Heart Association, Salvation Army, your local Food Pantry, etc.) are all flooding mailboxes at the same time.

What Time of Year is Best for Your Staff?
Fall is often the busiest time of year for many, personally and professionally. If fall is your annual appeal time, take a look at the effectiveness of your campaigns over the past few years. Did your advancement team put forth the right amount of focus, energy and time? Talk with your staff about the process. If it has become a routine project, rather than a carefully planned and conceptual part of your development strategy, perhaps a different time of year would bring more energy and results!

If Fall Is Your Season
If fall is your annual appeal time it’s critical that your piece is more than a letter. (Part two of this post coming soon!)

As far as mailing, it’s smart to ensure your annual appeal arrives several days before Thanksgiving or sooner. This gives donors the chance to respond right away, as many do. They may also file it aside with other appeals to evaluate and decide at year-end which organizations align with best their values.

Have a comment or annual appeal success story? We’d love to hear it.

Tagged: Biomedical, Design, Life Science, Marketing Strategy

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