Fundraising Appeal Checklist

Fundraising appeal checklists like this one have helped us consistently achieve strong results.

I collected all the best practices I’ve tested to create the one below.

Aren’t checklists infantilizing?

On the contrary, they are critical for consistently high performance in complex environments.

From Atul Gawande’s “Checklist Manifesto:”

Substantial parts of what software designers, financial managers, firefighters, police officers, lawyers, and most certainly clinicians do are now too complex for them to carry out reliably from memory alone.

The philosophy is that you push the power of decision making out to the periphery and away from the center. You give people the room to adapt, based on their experience and expertise. All you ask is that they talk to one another and take responsibility. That is what works.

I’ve received lots of questions since sharing the Fundraising Appeal Checklist. Here are some of the most frequent:

Q: How do I use the Fundraising Appeal Checklist?

A: There are two types of checklists. The first is like a list of instructions (think of McDonald’s), specific steps that you need to follow. The second is like a reminder of important areas (think of an emergency room). This is the second type. 

Workflow-wise, you can require every appeal to be accompanied by a checklist before publication, or you can review as a group to make sure every appeal is the best it can be. Not every box has to be checked, but at least you should have thought about it.

Q: What do you mean by Gamification in fundraising?

A: Anything you’re asking the donor to do that is not making a gift. Ideas I’ve seen include 3-question surveys, notecards for the donor to send a message to a professor, nurse, or service recipient, or checklists with a mark for every year donated and the current one blank. In non-fundraising direct mail, I’ve seen games with stickers and crossword-like quizzes.

Q: Should/can we edit it?

A: Yes, please! Use this as a starting point. In fact, surgical teams have seen surprising safety and performance increases when they develop their own. Every development shop will need something different.

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