4 min Read
March 13, 2012

How To Run a Successful Year-End Integrated Appeal, Part 1

Guest Blogger

This guest blog post is brought to you by Will Nolan, Director of Communications & Administration at Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy, a long-time client and friend of Big Duck

For the last four years, I have been leading communications for Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy, which includes working with our friends at Big Duck on each year-end appeal. 

At the height of summer, when the first sunburn is fading and the second one is setting in…Big Duck reminds us that it’s time to start thinking about the end of the year. Every year we’re caught off guard and can’t believe we have to focus on the holidays. But you know what? They’re right.

With proper planning, the combination of a fresh approach and reliable tools, and the flexibility to take advantage of new opportunities that may pop up, you can maximize the effect of your year-end appeal with a fully integrated approach using all of your organization’s outlets.

First, a little about Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy: We are a nonprofit organization that is focused on ending Duchenne muscular dystrophy – a lethal genetic disorder that affects boys.  We are an international organization located in New Jersey, with a staff of about 12. The communication team is me and an amazing part-timer. So please know all of my advice comes out of my experience with little budget and a tiny team, for a niche disease. 

Here are nine ideas we incorporate into our annual year-end appeal:

1. Listen to your community.

When deciding on what your year-end appeal will be about, make sure that you are listening to what your community is saying.

We have a very active online community on Facebook, and through our own Community Site. By staying on top of what people are saying on our Wall or in discussion groups on our site, we know what is important to them – in this case, what research is a priority that they would like to see us invest in and move along. 

Now, this isn’t to say that you should allow your appeal to be swayed solely by popular opinion, especially when dealing with research investments that may or may not be the best option for your community or the patients in your community. But it is important to listen to what your constituents want because then they’ll give you what you want!

2. Keep the concept simple, clean, strong.

This is a lesson learned from Big Duck that has been invaluable. Our most successful campaigns have been ones where the design and the copy were simple, strong, and exact. We have all learned that the more we talk, the more we write, the less people pay attention (in fact, maybe you’ve already given up on this blog or are about to…but don’t! There are so many exciting anecdotes coming!). 

Once we have come up with this concept with Big Duck, we then figure out ways to translate it to our different outlets: mail, email series, Facebook/Twitter, and our Community Site.  We tweak the art and copy to make it specific to the outlet.

3. Make the action simple and clean.

What are you asking your community to do? This is a question we deal with everyday, whether or not we are in holiday appeal mode. People today don’t have time. They just don’t. So asking your constituents to sign this, record that, upload something, forward something else, and give $100 is a recipe for failure for us.

We are most successful when we are straightforward about what we are asking.  For example, give us money. That may seem blunt, and it’s not fun to ask, but people today appreciate honesty. Just make sure you tell them why they need to give you money and what you are going to do with the money they give you. This goes back to keeping the concept simple & clean and developing a concept based on what your community wants.

4. Make the action shareable. Let the community do some of the work.

When you post on Facebook, or tweet, or send out your email blast, don’t just think about the person receiving the message. Think about the person that that person may know, and then make it easy for them to pass the message/ask along.

As I mentioned, we work with a rare, fatal disorder. Our community wants a treatment that will give their sons a long, healthy life.

This past year’s concept was “A Future Without Duchenne – Let’s Make It Happen.”  For our shareable action, we asked parents to personalize our message when sharing it with friends and family. “I want Jonathan to be a leading zoologist one day. I believe in a future without Duchenne. Won’t you help us make it happen?” This personalized “the ask” for the receiver and it gave the sender a way to call their friends into action.

Check out Part 2 of How To Run a Successful Year-End Integrated Appeal, when I address things such as flexibility, using multiple channels, updating the community, and more.