Before Christmas, Civil War Preservation Trust tapped its members for funds to help it fulfill all of its Tricord deal obligations vis a vis the Chancellorsville Battlefield land purchase. This blog began analyzing relevant deal news in October.
* Why did CWPT wait until the completion of the deal – in December - to appealBasic, basic stuff which your professional staff should have a grip on.
* Why did it not prepare a contingency fund with borrowed cash, a special appeal, liquidation of assets, or some combination thereof?
* Why is CWPT tapping members only with no general appeal to non-members?
* Why is a (non-profit) organization with $16+ million in assets and $1million - $2 million in annual dues (never mind special contributions) unable to close the sale first and then fund the liability later?
* Why does the funding appeal contain no deadline (Central Virginia Battlefields Trust says the deadline is March 31)?
* What happens if the deadline is missed?
* What is the status of the land sale - and land - right now?
ABC of fundraising letters
Have you read the CWPT letter? Read it now. I was shocked by the US/WE versus YOU tone of it. US/WE refers throughout to the paid staff of the CWPT and WE/YOU to the members. All the credit for past victories accrued to US/WE. Might the staff not be members too? Might they not identify with members even a little bit?
Let's review CWPT's member letter appeal in light of the basic elements required of a fundraising message:
BASICS: "If you are writing to previous donors, be sure to thank them first before you ask for more money."
CWPT: [Seems to have forgotten this bit.]
BASICS: " Also, lose the hype. Don't exaggerate or over-extend yourself"
CWPT: "Our future is in the balance today. … the eyes of the world are upon us … the highest-profile challenge we have ever taken on … Nothing we have ever done to date compares to this. Nothing… if we fail, we will lose - perhaps forever - key credibility in the eyes of the world…"
BASICS: "Nothing will destroy your credibility faster than sounding like a used-car salesperson when raising funds for a good cause."
CWPT: "You read that right; this offer is not just for those 'heavy hitters' among us; everyone who gives $50 or more to this appeal will have his or her name included on this commemorative marker … Those who can give a higher donation will have their name listed in a progressively larger size; I think that's fair, don't you? … P.S. I may never be able to offer to put your name on a battlefield marker at this donation level ever again."
BASICS: "Appeal to readers' sense of urgency by providing a deadline."
BASICS: "Writing successful fundraising letters isn't rocket science."
CWPT: [This nonprofit hires paid staff but not fundraising specialists.]
It would appear we have to wait for March 31 to check the CVBT website for news of what happened to CWPT's deal; CVBT has been the better source of information. Failing that, we will have CWPT's 2004 tax returns to review sometime after April 15. I look forward to going through the returns with you then.