This time last year, I spotlighted an appeal letter provided to me by Cindy Timmerman, Development Director of Community Link, in a Mailbox installment. Community Link is a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering people with disabilities. To that end, they provide assistance and resources so that enable these individuals to function in and contribute to their communities. Their programs target both children and adults. They are a Basics & More Alum, and Cindy enrolled in last year’s Best Year-End Fundraising EVER: The System. Check out the home run that was Cindy’s 2017 fundraising appeal letter here, in case you either haven’t seen it before.

Cindy recently took the time to answer a handful of questions I asked her about year-end integrated fundraising campaign. Check out Cindy’s responses below. They are unabridged and unedited.

1.) You enrolled in our Best Year-Fundraising EVER: The System last year. How did that training series influence your 2017 campaign?

Wow! The training series influenced EVERYTHING that I did. In my previous jobs I wasn’t given full control of preparing and sending out appeal letters. So, when I came into this job at Community Link I knew I wanted to do something awesome, but I just needed guidance. Pamela and the wonderful group of experts that she provided definitely gave me that!

2.) The letter from your 2017 campaign drew kudos from one of the best fundraising copywriters in the world, Lisa Sargent. Tell our readers how your letter/s came about. How did you determine which story/s you would use for this campaign?

Honestly, I really just connected with Mark Kujawa because his story was so much like my brother’s story that I wanted to tell it. I knew donors would be able to connect with him…Plus, he’s just so darn adorable! As far as Matt, he also was a fairly new participant at our Metro facility and I just felt a connection to him.

3.) What were some of the challenges and how did you resolve them? What training in the series produced the most AHA moments?

The training that produced the biggest AHA moment for me was the one about gift strings. I had always took a “one size fits all” approach. It was really enlightening for me to learn about gift strings and how to develop them.

4.) Who did the design of the letter/pack? ).

The company that handled the mailing for me also designed the letter for me as well (per my direction). There was a bit of a learning curve on their part as well. But I knew exactly what I wanted and with their expertise with computer design software they were able to take the photo that I had given them, remove the background and have the image focus directly on Mark and Matt.

5.) Did you acquire any brand new donors as a result of this campaign (was acquisition a part of this campaign at all; if not disregard)?

Acquisition was not a part of this campaign. However, 98 donors who were lapsed donors did give a gift in 2017.

6.) How did you follow up with donors to your 2017 campaign?

My thank you letter was prepared before my appeal letter. So, thank you letters were immediately sent to donors. Personal phone calls were also made to our best donors.

7.) Did you feel that any ONE aspect of your 2017 campaign was particularly successful?

I don’t think there was one aspect. I honestly believe it was a combination of well-written letters with good photography, clear direction on how to donate and specific gift strings.

7.) What goals did you have for your 2017 campaign and did you meet them?

Our goal was to raise $60,000. We surpassed the goal by raising $65,000.

8.) Based on last year’s campaign, what will you be doing differently in your 2018 year-end campaign?

Last year I mailed to all donors in our database (3,860 names) with no lift piece. This year I chose to send out one story instead of two. I also segmented our database more by mailing only to our active donors who have given in the last 24 months and to our lapsed donors who given 25 to 36 months ago (1,239 names). They are also receiving a holiday card for their personal use and a tea bag that was donated by The Republic of Tea. A sticky note with a message from the individual that I wrote about in the letter will be placed on the letter telling them to enjoy a cup of tea while they read his story and the difference they make not only in his life but in the lives of others. The envelope also has his photo on the outside with a note that says “Special gift inside!”

Special thanks to Cindy for not only sharing her 2017 campaign content with us, but answering these questions and providing us with even more insight. What she’s learned from The System, she’s carried with her into 2018, and her campaign for this year clearly reflects that. Check out a portion of her 2018 year-end campaign below.


Power of Storytelling | This Is Us Makes Us Cry…Yet We Keep Coming Back

November 14, 2018

This Is Us first hit NBC, and millions of viewers, in fall of 2016, and it instantly resonated with audiences in a very powerful way. I was late to the party, but luckily, the show is still going strong. High viewership and conversations across social media can attest to that. Just last month, I began […]

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What’s In My Inbox | Embrace Gratitude…Even When You Lose

November 14, 2018

When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears. Live every day with an attitude of gratitude. -Tony Robbins There is power, real power, in gratitude. Embracing gratitude, recognizing all that is good, is the gateway to real fundraising. Solid fundraising. The kind of fundraising that takes your donor on a journey from first-time donor to […]

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Fundraising Friday | November 9, 2018

November 9, 2018

Fundraising is an art form. It’s also a science. And there’s power – real power – in the art of the thank you. A recent study, Learning to Say Thank You: The Role of Donor Acknowledgements, authored by Jen Shang, Adrian Sargeant, Kathryn Carpenter, and Harriet Day, shows just how much your acknowledgement program means […]

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Latest Report Reinforces: Your Thank You Matters

November 6, 2018

Fundraising is an art form. It’s also a science. And there’s power – real power – in the art of the thank you. A recent study called Learning to Say Thank You: The Role of Donor Acknowledgements, authored by Jen Shang, Adrian Sargeant, Kathryn Carpenter, and Harriet Day, is rooted in science and backed by […]

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Fundraising Friday | November 2, 2018

November 2, 2018

Your nonprofit’s thank you letter represents an enormous opportunity to grow a relationship. Are you taking advantage of it? This week’s What’s in my Mailbox features a stunning *before* and *after* thank you letter from the queen of thank you’s, none other than the founder of the SOFII Thank You Letter Clinic, Lisa Sargent. Every […]

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What’s In My Inbox | Opportunities to connect with donors are endless, and Halloween is one!

October 31, 2018

Time and time again, we’ve mentioned that when it comes to reaching out to your donors, there are an abundance of opportunities throughout the year. That means endless possibilities for talking to your supporters and strengthening relationships. For making sure you don’t forget about them and that they don’t forget about you. Holidays are extra […]

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What’s In My Mailbox | See Lisa Sargent’s transformative thank you letter magic in action

October 31, 2018

Lisa Sargent, fundraising copywriter extraordinaire and thank you letter master over at SOFII (and beyond), recently delivered an excellent thank you letter rewrite as a bonus to participants of our year-end fundraising webinar series, so I’m sharing it with all of you. Many thanks to Lisa for sending this one over. It’s from Friends of […]

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Fundraising Friday | October 26, 2018

October 26, 2018

Do you hesitate to share stories that might be controversial or too painful? The Power of Nonprofit Storytelling with why you shouldn’t. Monterey Bay Aquarium with the most irresistible subject line I’ve seen in quite awhile. This week’s What’s In My Inbox. Learn how the Human Society of Northeast Georgia broke their fundraising goal by a […]

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What’s In My Mailbox | Donor-centricity at its finest: HSNEGA breaks goal by 40%

October 24, 2018

The Humane Society of Northeast Georgia’s recent twice yearly newsletter just hit my mailbox. Executive Director, Julie Edwards, said: Earlier this year, our team decided to “overhaul” our bi-annual newsletter, making it more donor-centric and visually appealing (more photos, color, etc.) following a “newsletter audit” by Agents of Good. The results have been incredible… we […]

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What’s In My Inbox | Monterey Bay Aquarium makes a splash with tasteful nudibranchs

October 24, 2018

A staggering 269 billion emails are sent every day. How do you get yours opened? This email, from Monterey Bay Aquarium, read simply: Open for tasteful nudibranchs. Who on earth could resist opening an email that curiosity inducing? With my interest piqued, I read on and found some breathtaking photography inside. Visually stunning photographs accompanied […]

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Fundraising Friday | October 19, 2018

October 19, 2018

How are you keeping it *human* in your email communications? This week’s What’s in my Inbox with a fun take. This quote, from one of my favorite copywriters, Indra Sinha, hangs above my desk: ”Don’t start by writing. Start by feeling. Feel, and feel passionately, and the emotion you feel will come through the spaces in between the words.“ […]

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What’s In My Inbox | Keeping it lighthearted *and* keeping it human

October 17, 2018

Political emails. Every day I receive dozens. And they routinely, for lack of a better word, suck. All about meeting their fundraising goals (and I care why?) or fighting the opposition, and nothing about the kind of world I want for myself and my children. I recently received a GIF-laden email from Allison Walsh, Deputy […]

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Fundraising Friday | October 12, 2018

October 12, 2018

What Happened Next Will Shock You. A story of donor dreams crushed. One that’s all too typical in the nonprofit world. Are you remembering to take a break? A gentle reminder from Nell Edgington. Bloomerang with a reminder: our job is not to brag about how cool we are. Our job is to show our […]

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What Happened Next Will Shock You

October 10, 2018

It was just another day at work in my home office when I stumbled across one of those heartwarming stories from Humans of New York (HONY). I’m sure you know HONY, the Facebook photoblog founded and lead by Brandon Stanton. HONY seeks to share the stories and innermost secrets of humans everywhere. A particular story caught […]

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Fundraising Friday | October 5, 2018

October 5, 2018

Looking for an example of a great enews? Look no further than this one, from Human Rights Watch. This week’s What’s in my Inbox. How did an already good thank you letter get transformed into a device of gratitude, beauty and joy? Check out this week’s What’s in My Mailbox for a thank you letter […]

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What’s In My Inbox | Human Rights Watch’s enews packs a punch

October 4, 2018

A good nonprofit newsletter is hard to find. Finding a well-done enews can be even harder. This recent enews from Human Rights Watch is a good one. HRW is an international nonprofit organization that aims to protect human rights around the world, and they carry out their mission through a focus on research and advocacy. […]

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What’s in my Mailbox | Are you forgetting the most important piece of the puzzle? (Before & After Thank You Letter)

October 3, 2018

Your job, as a fundraising professional, is to secure the money to fully fund your mission. And the smartest way to do that is by building lifetime relationships. The kind of relationships that take your prospective supporter on a journey…from first time gift, to a repeat gift, to monthly and major gifts, to that final […]

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Fundraising Friday | September 28, 2018

September 28, 2018

Are you paying attention to the stories that resonate the most with your donors? Sometimes you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. This week’s Power of Storytelling. When you’re looking to grow your email list, pay attention to your most opened email – the welcome email. A *before* and *after* example in this week’s What’s in my Inbox. Mary Cahalane wonders: Why is it so damned hard […]

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What’s in my Inbox | A *before* and *after* welcome email

September 26, 2018

Imagine a prospective donor has learned about your organization, visited your website, and been intrigued enough to sign up for your organization’s emails. What happens next? Most email service providers offer a standard welcome email template. A little something like this: Welcome to XYZ org. We are happy to have you as a member of […]

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