Are you maximizing your time and expense when you ask for donations to your animal shelter or rescue? Do you know why one donor request works better than another? Who donates the most?
Should your letters be long or short? Email or print? Should the tone be general or should you make specific requests for certain needs? Analyze the results of letters or emails you send to better understand what works and what doesn’t. You can use some of the same techniques used by large companies in analyzing and increasing donations to your shelter or rescue. Be flexible and willing to change what’s not working and do more of what does work. It’s usually best to not make drastic changes at once. Following are some ideas to generate more cash.
Who Is On Your Mailing List?
Who is on your mailing list for donor requests? Be sure to include previous donors, those who have adopted from your shelter or rescue group, and volunteers.
It’s nearly always easier to generate revenue from someone who has donated before. I have donated many times to the thrift store of a local shelter, but they have never requested cash donations from me. They could probably generate a lot more revenue by making personal contact with animal lovers who already support their efforts.
Send donation requests to everyone who has adopted a pet from your shelter, even to folks who no longer live in your area. Many animal lovers have a special place in their hearts for the shelters which rescued their beloved companions and will continue to support them. Just ask!
Also, request donations from volunteers. They obviously support your efforts.
Where Do Your Donations Come From?
Know who is actually donating. If possible, start coding all the names on your mailing list to identify them as previous donors, volunteers with your shelter, new pet parents, etc. Where do you get your best responses?
Always keep a record of your responses in terms of a number of donations, dollar amount generated, average donation per person, and any other criteria you want to measure. What group of donors contributed the most? Did you receive a large number of small donations? Try to repeat what works.
Compare Print vs Email Donor Requests
Compare your responses from print donation requests versus email requests. Use the same copy (wording) and keep a record of the number of responses and the dollar donation amount for each. Try to get donors’ email addresses so you can maintain contact by email. Say something like “Please provide your email address so we can thank you by email. We won’t share your email address with anyone else. Also, may we put your email address on our email newsletter list? This helps us spend less on printing and postage and more on homeless pets.”
Tell a Compelling and Powerful Story About Your Homeless Pets
Try telling at least one specific story about an animal that’s been rescued, that pet’s medical needs, its current condition, etc. Include photos. Showing potential donors what you’re accomplishing is important so they can see where the money is going.
Are you sending a donation appeal because your shelter recently participated in a rescue of a hoarding situation, a puppy mill, or some other abuse? Explain that situation to your potential donors. Often your audience already knows about these situations since they were reported by local news outlets. I recently received a donation request from Operation Kindness in Carrollton, TX with a plea for help due to a puppy mill raid nearby. Nearly 500 dogs and puppies were rescued, and all needed medical care. This no-kill shelter took in 60 dogs and 20 puppies, which put the shelter at full capacity. The specific details of why they were asking for money, photos of the dogs, and headlines from the local newspaper (“huge puppy mill busted in Bowie”) help make the case for responding to their donation request.
For every letter, you send, try to learn what works and what doesn’t. Build on that knowledge, keep tweaking your letters, and you’ll soon find your appeals are more productive.
More resources for writing better donation request letters: