Right before thanksgiving our development department...wait, who am I kidding?! we don't really have one...our staff, got together to try to make sense of our seasonal appeal. I am currently the closest we have to a development person, so the majority of the tasks fell on me, and since we received significantly more funds in spite of our "recession" I dare say I did a good job, and I am confident to share what I've learned:
Clearly this is not news and I know re-stating the fact sounds really stupid, but having received and read tons of art appeal letters, I must say, we don't ask. The ask is muddied underneath tons of "reasons" used to prove why an Arts Organization is worth your contribution, and in general why the arts deserve some $$$. Please don't do that, your constituency is probably made of artists and art lovers, so use your space to ask for money and then make it clear why you ask and what you will use the money for. Don't muddy your ask!
2. Tell them What, When, Why, and What for
We need to make sure we ask our donors for what we need, be specific with amounts, establish a deadline, tell them why your organization should receive a contribution and not others, and remember a donation is much like an investment: quantify to your donors what their money will be used for and, reassure them that you are a good investment and that their money will be used wisely.
3. Ask Again...the Reminder
Some of us forget to donate, so develop a strategy that includes a follow up letter, an e-mail or a Facebook post. Just to note you must navigate the fine line between reminding donors and being "naggy".
4. Tailor your Letter
We love feeling special, so remember that if your letter is individualized, there is more likelihood it will be successful. When donors feel special they will put that same care back to your organization.
5. Be Concise
As artist we LOVE making thing wordy and complicated, avoid it, this is not an art history academic paper and this is not a grant, it is a letter that will must likely be read under 3 minutes.
6. Be grateful
These are difficult times we (were/are) living in, so treat the $10 and the $1,000 donor the same way, what they give is probably equally generous in the scheme of things. being grateful and sweet will take your organization a log way!
7. Have Fun and be creative
We are lucky to be arts organizations, to have a pool of creative and awesome people, so think outside the development box, creativity and fun is expected from us and that makes us terribly lucky. So out with the boring appeal, and in with the witty, funny, colorful, and sweet... singing telegram?... just an idea ;)
I guess it could be ten tips, but the guilt is coming back, and I should go back to my emails...ugh