Seize control of your year-end results by owning the three most important components of any fundraising appeal: the list, or donors and prospects to whom you'll send the appeal; the looks, or creative design you'll apply to the appeal; and the language, or actual message you will send them.

Some might argue that of all of these, the list is the most important. If you don't have the right list, if you are not targeting those who are interested, engaged, or at least have a propensity to respond, you are wasting your money on the looks and the language. In a previous post, we discussed some ways of segmenting your list to get the most value out of it. Capacity ratings play a big role in that. But did you know that you can append your list of constituents, both donors and prospects, with lifestyle attributes, such as interest in travel, animals and pets, arts & culture and more? Imagine being able to craft your creative and message around the specific attributes of meaningfully segmented list.

Of course, the creative is important, too. If no one opens the envelope or email, your response rate will be nil. So be sure your appeal stands out. You can do this with color, with catchy subject lines or envelop teasers, and by ensuring the aesthetics of your appeal match the sensibilities of the donors and prospects who receive them. For instance, if you are an opera company, your donors expect to see rich photography and paper. If you are a food bank, don't overdo the glitz. And if you are an environmental cause, you'd better use recycled and renewable materials. 

Once you've determined who to send your appeal to, and settled on the design, it's time to write the copy. If you're lucky, recipients will open the package or email and skim the contents. Be sure your appeal is skimmable - with plenty of pictures, preferably of people, some pull quotes, underlining, short paragraphs and lots of white space. And make certain they get to the "ask" above the fold. And below the fold.

For more tips on creating a winning annual appeal, check out our ten tips to Write an Annual Appeal That Works.

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