Is your fundraising too much like a family Christmas letter?

I love family Christmas letters.

Six-year-old Elmer is reading nearly 100 grade levels above his age. He has already secured a free-ride scholarship at the Sorbonne when he’s ready for college, which will be just as soon as he finishes his school project of rebuilding a flood-ravaged village in New Guinea, using nothing but toothpicks and super-glue. His younger brother Brian is doing well too….

You can have a great time informing your friends and family how great things are going with a family Christmas letter.

Just don’t let that style of communicating creep into your fundraising, as the Bloomerang blog advises at Year-End Appeals: Avoid the Family Holiday Letter Approach. Here are some things not to do:

  • Writing for one audience. All the people on your Christmas letter list may be similar — friends and family who know you at least well enough to connect once a year. Your donors — more differences. New donors, lapsed donors, low-dollar donors, high-end donors. Each group has different needs and levels of connection. Treat them differently!
  • Only talking about yourself. This is the biggest deal. Your Auntie may think your family attainments are exciting. Donors need to know not what you have accomplished, but what they can accomplish through you. Trotting out your achievements is simply irrelevant in fundraising.
  • Writing to people who have lost touch. Reconnecting may be an important function of Christmas letters. Fundraising needs a more strategic approach. Reactivating lapsed donors is a different activity from cultivating active donors.
  • Not doing something to stand out from the crowd. We personally know most of the people who send us Christmas letters. That makes them stand out, even though they’re all pretty similar. Few of our donors know us that well. Our letter is one of a bunch that they may have trouble distinguishing.

On the other hand, if your fundraising could be as heartfelt and personal as a real letter from a loved one … that would be an accomplishment!


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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