August 22, 2019

How to Make Your Annual Appeal a Smashing Success

Imagine it’s January 1, and you just closed your best calendar year ever. Your annual appeal brought in twice the amount as last year. New donors grew by over 25 percent. Watch this video to discover how using the structure of Shakespeare’s greatest play, Hamlet, can help you to make your year-end a smash hit.

For more on annual appeals and yearend fundraising, read:

Nonprofit Annual Appeal Letter Essentials, Are You Helping Your Nonprofit or Chickens?

How to Plan Your Nonprofit Year-End Annual Appeal Fundraising

How to Set Realistic Nonprofit Fundraising & Income Expectations

For more answers, check out this Nonprofit  CEO Library.

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Do you want to discover even more about fundraising planning, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I’d love to help you create a dynamic plan to help your nonprofit thrive. Schedule a time for a free discovery chat here. -Karen


“The plays the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.” I’m reading from Hamlet, of course, and Hamlet is about to catch his uncle’s treachery using a play. You can use the plays the thing as your cue to create a three-act play to make a smashing year-end.


Imagine it’s January 1, and you have just had the best year, and ever your donations have increased by 25 percent. You have found 100 new donors you didn’t know you had, and the community’s buzzed up about what’s coming in the New Year. Listen up, and I’ll explain how Hamlet, a three-act act play, can help you.


You can have an amazing year-end. I help nonprofit leaders to lead with vision, not fear, with consulting, mentoring, and coaching. In this case, leading without fear. Leading with vision is recognizing that the year-end, there’s another fantastic opportunity to help get your mission out there and wait to move towards your vision versus, “Oh my gosh, I have so much to do I’ll never get it all done.” That’s leading with fear. Using my advice, you will adopt the idea of doing the year, and like a three-act play, this helps you because writers design plays to move audiences forward to create drama and interest. They’re also a way that you have a language to talk about others who are working with you to bring them on board and get their help.


It’s August, and for this month and September, you get ready for your fall play. That means you do a walk through what we will do each month. How are we going to do it? Who’s going to be done doing it. Who, what, where, when, why? All of the classic questions. It’s planning its walkthrough. It’s time for the stage manager to begin to gather props. It’s time to look at who the audience is going to be. What are those mailing lists look like? It’s all about getting ready.

Act 1

It’s October. This is the setting and what you’re going to do here is orient people to help them remember your nonprofit. Provide them great information about what’s happening, what you’re doing, and your work. It’s time for your annual report if you’re going to do one and basically share what’s new, who we are, and help people to remember you. October is getting people engaged with you again.

Act 2

It’s November. Act 2 is an exciting month, with lots of things going on in this month. The first ¾ of the month is about thank you. We have done this great work, all the things we’ve talked about in October because of you. Thank you so much for your help. We could not have done it without you. You are the people who make a difference. You are our supporters, our donors, people who cheer us on, people who help our brand. All these things are celebrated in November. But at the end of the month, just looking to play, things are going well. All of a sudden, there is a climax.

Act 3

There is the real challenge. There is, “oh my gosh, what’s happened. We may not be able to continue. This is when you begin to tell the story about where you are and where you need to go next to make your great work continue. How are you going to resolve this conflict? This challenge is the climax that you ended November with the answer, of course, is your donors. We’re going to step forward and help you as you invite them to do that. As they do, you celebrate them, and you share how their help. Their new help is launching you to this new place. You thank them, and you celebrate that because without them, you could not do it. They are your heroes and strong use the structure of a three-act play to create an exciting year-end that leads your donors and supporters to the conclusion and the resolution you seek.

Karen Eber Davis

Karen Eber Davis provides customized advising and coaching around nonprofit strategy and board development. People leaders hire her to bring clarity to sticky situations, break through barriers that seem insurmountable, and align people for better futures. She is the author of 7 Nonprofit Income Streams and Let's Raise Nonprofit Millions Together.


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