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Take it online: Six steps to a successful tax appeal when direct mail is no longer practical

As charities adjust to a new normal during the COVID-19 crisis, one element that can’t be overlooked is the looming end of financial year appeal.

With more staff working from home, potential disruption with suppliers such as printers, and severe postal delays, it might seem like the best option is to park the appeal until life has returned to normal.

In one respect, you might be right.

If you’re unable to send direct mail, process postal donations and send a ‘thank you’ acknowledgement promptly, you risk harming donor relationships potentially undoing significant stewardship. With so many unknowns, is it fair to ask donors to dig deep when you can’t guarantee your response will honour their gift in the manner it deserves?

In another – and the most important – respect, failing to run a campaign at the end of the financial year is the worst thing you can do for those who rely on your mission.

It’s no secret that the primary reason people give a gift is that they’re asked. Regardless of what’s going on in the world, you must run a tax campaign, but this may mean making some significant adjustments.

Unfortunately, in an ever-evolving situation, charities are being forced to leave appeal decisions to the last minute. If you’ve chosen to run an online appeal, here are our specific tips on putting together an online campaign that will help reach annual targets.

1)Use email to tell your story

While direct mail may have been the appeal method of choice, a switch to email at this time is recommended.

Depending on the quality of data, while the predicted income may not be as high as a direct mail campaign, outgoings will be less by comparison.

Design a communication strategy that tells the appeal story over a series of emails. With a sophisticated email delivery system like SupporterHub, you can pre-load a full sequence of emails so once the campaign is set you don’t need to do anything more. Our system can also reallocate email addresses between groups depending on the recipient’s response.

2) Create a landing page

With an irregular postal system, it might be wise to guide donors to an online donation platform rather than sending cheques through the mail. While your website serves as a platform for donations, create a landing page specifically for this appeal to avoid the story being diluted with broader organisational messaging.

The appeal landing page will need to tell the story clearly and concisely, be easy to navigate and include a ‘donate now’ button as soon as the viewer’s eye hits the page. Instructions must be clear and concise throughout leaving the website visitor in no doubt how they can help and why their support is so crucial at this time.

3) Run a social media campaign

Social media is a powerful tool that can help raise awareness and even lead to a global reach for a campaign. Use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and any other platforms where you have a presence to introduce your story, explain why you might be doing things a little differently for this appeal and build direct engagement with your audience. It’s important to remember that if you’re using social media as a platform, followers will also use it as a customer service tool. This means direct messages and responding to post comments must be included in day to day campaign management.

4) Consider a radio campaign

If you’re looking for extra exposure, a radio campaign will reach your donors and tell them where they can find details of this season’s appeal. While this form of media can be costly, consider drawing on local relationships to see if stations may be open to offering pro bono support. These are unprecedented times and some out of the box thinking may be required to extend your reach.

5) Phone major donors

At this time of uncertainty, major donors will appreciate the one-on-one contact that keeps them in the loop and shows them that they’re still important to you. Regardless of what’s going on in the world, the essence of donor stewardship remains the same and personal contact is vital. This might not align with your usual processes but within this uncertain period, is an essential step. Look closely at data to identify those donors who are likely to give at this time and make personal contact to talk about your upcoming appeal and let them know it will be coming via email rather than mail as a one-off.

6) Rely on data

Analysing data will be the key to survival throughout this far from normal tax appeal. It can tell you who’s likely to donate, how they will donate, whether you can and should contact them via email or phone and those who are likely to respond. Spend time analysing data to get the best results and create a campaign based on the donor’s history.

The end of financial year appeal is one of the most significant appeals of the year. While life may be far from normal at the moment, it’s still important to take the opportunity to ask and continue to build relationships to help raise vital funds.

SupporterHub has currently extended our FREE trial period to help charities use this time to become better prepared for the future from a technology perspective. To find out about how a FREE trial will help increase the success of your end of financial year appeal, contact us today.