Tax Appeals and how to make them successful

| 3 min read
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I recently did a rough count and over the past 13 years I’ve written or overseen around 880 tax appeals. Here’s what I’ve learnt:

  1. Story is everything

The best-performing tax appeals always feature the strongest case studies. So you should be on the lookout now for a compelling story that illustrates a clear need and the impact of donor support. Make sure you interview the case study in-depth to glean the kind of detail that really brings a story to life and makes it stick in people’s mind. One story good two stories better, right? Wrong. Time and again we’ve heard this, and seen it proven: stick to a compelling story of need about an individual. It will trump siblings, families, communities, populations every time. Ditto statistics and any big numbers. Avoid them like the plague.

  1. Include an Ask

Might seem basic, but a lot of charities still don’t ask their donors for specific amounts of money. Yet tests have shown time and again that having tailored ask amounts and lots of them in your appeal not only boosts income for each appeal, it boosts the overall life-time-value of your donors. Yes, if it’s the first time you’re doing it, you may get a few complaints. But your Tax Appeal is the perfect time to use this tactic because you can emphasise tax-deductibility and if your case for support is strong enough, people will understand why you’re asking them for a specific amount.

  1. Show them the money

A visual representation of a monetary benefit can be surprisingly effective there’s something about seeing those figures in black and white. So a simple table showing the donor their tax saving can have a significant impact at tax-time.

  1. Try a 4pp letter

Tests have shown that in warm mailings, longer (4 6pp) letters still work better than 2pp letters. If you’re sending a premium acquisition pack, however, it appears there’s not enough of a difference to warrant the extra pages. ‘As long as it needs to be’ is the mantra around the sector, and I tend to agree: if you’ve got lots of lovely details about a case study, and how donor support can help, then it makes sense to include that in your letter.

  1. Lift the number of lift inclusions

When it comes to lifts, the more the merrier: anything that supports the story and the reason for giving a letter from a mum, a drawing from a child, a brain scan, a report from the field don’t be afraid to go to town. More lifts mean people are more likely to open your letter, and spend more time with your appeal. And at such a competitive time of year, that can only be a good thing.

  1. Send a Thank You letter

We know that thanking donors is one of the best ways to ensure they give again. In any case, it’s just good manners. Ideally, you want your Thank You letter to relate back to the appeal they just gave to, so make sure it’s tailored, not a pro-forma with two paragraphs and a receipt at the bottom. Put some time and effort into it. It won’t boost your income this time around, but it will set you up well for the next appeal, and the one after that.

  1. Make it easy

How easy is it for your donors to make a donation? For maximum results, you should include a separate A4 response coupon, pre-filled as much as possible, and a reply-paid envelope. If you’re running an online campaign, make sure all links work, and any buttons that say ‘Donate’ go straight to the donation form.  Ideally, you want to have a dedicated landing page for your Tax Appeal that has the same look and feel as the overall campaign, with the form right there for ease of access. As soon as people have to look around your site for the donation form, or click through too many pages, or sign up or put in a donor number, you risk losing them. And none of us can afford to do that, especially at tax time.

Wait for it – here’s our gift to you (pick one).

The first 50 organisations who propose to us by March 7 (book your tax appeal!) and we’ll give you a heart-warming 5% off the regular price.

OR

No half measures, for the first 20 organisations who book an audit of your appeal packs by March 7; we’ll say ‘I do’ to 50% off the regular price. That’s a saving of $399.

Do you love us yet?

Australia: +61 2 8084 6600

Dominique: dantarakis@heartforcauses.com

Naomi: nbyers@heartforcauses.com

New Zealand: +64 9 905 4977

Anna: ashere@heartforcauses.com

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