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How to choose the right signatory and raise more money

The right signatory can boost the impact of your fundraising appeal and make it stand out in a crowded market. So how do you decide who to use?

You’re sending out an appeal letter or other form of donor communication, and the big question is – who should it be from? 

Here are the five things to ask yourself. 

  1. Who is the letter usually from?

In other words, who are donors used to hearing from? Is this person high profile? Most of the time people aren’t really aware of who the signatory is, or their role in the organisation, so you’re pretty safe changing things up. If the person is well-known and beloved with donors, then you’ll need a good reason for changing signatories. But don’t be afraid to test. 

Sometimes you have someone involved in the organisation you can trot out for special occasions. For example, The Fred Hollows Foundation uses Gabi Hollows, Fred’s widow, a couple of times a year on appeals. Usually when the topic is something close to her heart. 

We’ve also worked on acquisition campaigns that have successfully used a case study signatory (for example the mum of a young cancer patient) because there’s a real ring of truth about their heartfelt message. 

Overall, you need to think about what donors are receiving over the course of an entire year and ensure your choice of signatory fits with that, as well as the individual appeal.  

  1. Are they available for an interview?

You should be interviewing your signatory in-depth before each appeal (or at least once a year in the case of busy CEOs). 

Each time you chat, you can get some up-to-date information from them about what’s been happening. If they’ve met the case study/beneficiary of the appeal, so much the better. Any personal take you can include will strengthen the letter enormously, and help avoid your appeal letters sounding a bit ‘samey’. 

If they haven’t met or spoken to the case study, have them make a quick phone call to say thanks, so they can legitimately say they’ve been speaking to them recently. 

  1. What are you asking for?

Generally speaking, the higher the donation you’re asking for, the more senior the signatory needs to be. It’s tricky for a caseworker to make a major donor ask, for instance. Ditto if you’re using lots of variable information which it would be a bit weird for a case study signatory to be privy to. 

When it comes to Bequest mailings, it’s a good idea for the letter to be from someone who themselves has left a gift in their Will to the organisation. This could be a Board member, CEO, or another senior figure in your charity.

  1. Is there an opportunity to test a different signatory and/or tone of voice?

We have a client with a very well-known signatory who has developed a strong relationship with donors over time through a monthly email. When this person retired, the charity was nervous about switching out the signatory all of a sudden, in case it had a negative impact on income. 

So, over a few months, we helped them test a slightly different tone of voice and a new signatory to slowly transition donors. 

It’s a good thing to test on a shoulder appeal, or if you have a particular topic that lends itself to a new signatory. 

  1. What else is going with the pack?

A great way to add a new voice to a pack is to include a heartfelt letter from the case study. Or an email from a field worker, thanking the donor or reinforcing why they should donate at this time, without asking for a specific amount. That way you are making the most of an additional voice, without compromising the purpose of the pack itself. 

Wildcard tip: is there an animal involved?

If you have the opportunity to send your appeal letter from a cute animal, go for it! Time and again we’ve seen this work, most recently a letter sent from Make a Wish NZ at Christmas time from Doug the Pug. The letter we wrote from Doug raised double the income of their previous Xmas appeal. 

Need some help making your appeal stand out from the crowd?