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Is My Spring Appeal Appropriate?

Are you still with me, nonprofit friends?

I’ve been fielding questions from marketers and fundraisers across nonprofits, universities, and associations over the last few weeks. Here’s another question I received that I thought would be helpful. (Psst, read another Q/A about promotions during coronavirus.)

This is an email I received from the Executive Director of a historical society and museum:

“We have a spring appeal going out in late April. I was planning to do a letter. Should I still do it? How should the messaging change?

I could also send the appeal via email, and then we could follow up with physical letters to those who haven’t already responded, once we’re back to more regular business.”

And my response:

Yes, you should absolutely send out your spring appeal AND your instinct that the messaging may need to change is spot on.

In your shoes, I would ask myself:

  • What is the impact of current events on my organization?
  • How many children are not coming through the doors that should be?
  • What organizational essentials are not happening?

And then I would write about my answers in the appeal. Wrap your needs into a compelling story. What is a child missing out on when they don’t visit your museum? How has this impacted your staff? Storytelling is key all the time, but especially right now!

I can’t stress this enough: People are looking for ways to help. They are also looking for connection. Storytelling achieves both.

Keep in mind that many people think the government funds museums. If that’s not the case for your museum, make sure your audiences know that you need them and how they can help.

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Regarding sending the appeal versus email or sending email and a letter, I would double up my efforts and send both emails and letters to everyone (knowing that some letters may be waiting in offices if you have business addresses). But I wouldn’t stop at one email and one letter—you want to do an actual “campaign.” I’d spend a little on social ads if you have the budget. Mighty Citizen’s how-to guide, How to Plan and Execute a Fundraising Campaign, will help you consider everything you need to launch a full-fledged fundraising campaign.

I would try to reach donors ASAP before everyone gets too fatigued. For most of the country, we’re settling into this for what feels like the long haul, but we’re still in a giving spirit!

I also thought about you when I saw a series of tweets from the National Cowboy Museum (which is closed) where they are having the security guard manage their social media. I was pretty sure it was a marketing ploy but have since been convinced that it’s actually their security guard. The posts are fun, endearing, and educational and people are loving it!

I hope this is helpful.

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