Posted June 1st, 1997

Why Send Multiple Year-End Gift Promotions?

In 1995, an “eagle eye” at the Sharpe company noticed a new trend. Several organizations had placed orders for multiple year-end giving brochure titles at the same time. Curious about this apparent trend that grew in 1996, we contacted a number of the persons who placed those orders as an opportunity to learn more about the rationale behind this shift in traditional methods of teaching donors at the end of the year. A sampling of responses follows.

American Humane Association, Englewood, Colorado

Because this association consists of two divisions — protection of animals from abuse and protection of children from abuse — Lynn Thomas, director of planned and major gifts, selected two publications geared to the different constituencies of the divisions. Those who support the children’s division would be younger and still in their working years, so received “Giving Before December 31,” because “the language fit more closely their profile,” according to Ms. Thomas.

Older people in their retirement years align themselves with the animal protection division, so Ms. Thomas sent them “Giving at Year-End 1996,” essentially because they would not relate as well to sections such as “time worked for you” versus “time worked to pay taxes,” which were highlighted in the former brochure.

This communication was a first year-end appeal to the group that supports the children’s protection division and garnered several gifts. Ms. Thomas views the brochure she sent as a first step in the educational process that initiates the “charitable learning curve.” Plans for year-end 1997 have not been finalized, but she anticipates sending the animal protection group a message similar to last year’s and changing slightly the message the child protection group receives.

Lawrence Technological University, Southfield, Michigan

In an effort to motivate new donors from a list of approximately 12,000 alumni who had never made a gift to the university, Laura Bourdeau, director of the annual fund, sent them “Investing in the Minds of Tomorrow.” The design included the “emotional element” of a graduate with upraised arms that she thought would tie into their feelings about the university.

For alumni who had previously made gifts, she opted to send the more universally appealing “Giving Before December 31” because “those people know why they’re giving — they’ve supported the university in the past.” When totaled, the university had received 290 gifts for the year-end and 16 new donors were found from alumni who had not previously given. As Ms. Bourdeau said, “If I spend $1, we get $3 more.” Last year’s results have shown enough promise that a similar plan is in the works for 1997.

WFYl-TV, Indianapolis, Indiana

Doug Dilling, director of development, selected “Giving Thanks at Year-End” to use as part of the place setting at the annual Thanksgiving dinner hosted by the public television station to thank its donors. Then in December, he followed up by mailing “Giving Before December 31” to a wider list that included the dinner attendees.

He said, “This is quality information that is also professional looking. We had a strong year-end. How we got our message across may have played an essential role in cultivating donors of planned gifts.” He plans to repeat the process for the station’s year-end messages for 1997.

Coral Ridge Ministries, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

For the past two years, Barbara Esterline, in the ministries advancement office, has mailed three year-end titles — in October, November, and December. “We wanted to see if it (three separate mailings) would have an effect on our donors. I think people appreciate the information,” she sald. Norm Harvey, director of ministry advancement, said the messages sent monthly over the last three months of the year act as a reminder of the deadline for claiming charitable income tax deductions and is “another service to our major donors.” Their giving figures increased from year-end 1995 to year-end 1996.

The publisher of Give & Take is not engaged in rendering legal or tax advisory service. For advice and assistance in specific cases, the services of your own counsel should be obtained. Articles in Give & Take may generally be reprinted for distribution to board members and staff of nonprofit institutions and other non-donor groups. Proper credit must be given. Call for details.

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