"What are your fondest memories about food?"
Ah, December. For many, it's our favorite time of year. The smell of pine in our living room from a tree brightly shimmering, tinsel sparkling. A month of endless merriment and cheer.
As I opened my mail this evening, I was reminded that December is also the (often frantic and angst-filled) season of the Year End Appeal. Just tonight I received seven appeals, all for incredibly worthy and deserving causes. One was even a reminder for an initial appeal letter that I received last week (as if I had forgotten in the six days since receiving the first letter).
But you are probably thinking,
“I'm hungry, I thought we were going to talk about food!”
Yes, we are...
Because one of the 7 year-end appeal letters I received today was one of the most moving, personal, and compelling year-end letters I have ever read or received. Period.
And I have not only written many, I receive tons and I read them all!
So what is it about this letter that rises through the noise and not only captured my attention and persuaded me to give, but to also write this post and share with all of you?
1) WHAT MAKES A GREAT YEAR END APPEAL LETTER?
Olivewood Gardens & Learning Center’s year-end appeal letter opens like this:
“What are your fondest memories about food? What meals do you eat that bring you back to special times with loved ones? Food is so incredibly personal. It can conjure memories, satisfy hunger, and heal. According to one of the Olivewood Kitchenistas, “food is culture, is family, is tradition, is love.”
I close my eyes.
Ahhhhhhhhh. Long, slow exhale.
Where am I now?
Imagining… no, remembering my fondest food memories and special times with loved ones.
Well, in fact, one of those memories is Olivewood Garden’s Seedling Soiree gala two years ago. Set in the organic gardens at their learning center on a gorgeous late spring evening, we were treated to course after course of exquisite healthy, nutritious, offerings by top local chefs that created their dishes from whatever was growing in the gardens that day. One of the most magnificent meals I've ever experienced.
As I sit, meditatively reflecting on this letter’s initial prompt, some more of my most cherished memories of meals with loved ones—many of whom have lost battles with cancer and are no longer with me—come flooding back.
I have read one paragraph of this Year-End Appeal letter, and I am instantly transported out of the busy-ness of my daily life to times past—times filled with joy and gratitude.
2) WHY DOES THE YEAR END APPEAL MATTER?
I know first-hand how much pressure nonprofits put on themselves to make this last ditch attempt to present their case and hopefully have donors open up their checkbooks once again—in the spirit of giving, of course. I have written dozens of year-end appeals, and it is, frankly, an incredibly daunting task.
According to the Nonprofit Insiders Network: Of those nonprofits polled, 28% said that they raised between 26-50% of their total annual income from the year-end ask alone. Plus, every organization polled used direct mail for their year-end campaign!
(No pressure for the person put in charge of crafting the appeal! Half of our total annual revenue is dependent upon this letter, but no pressure. Nope, none at all!)
Despite the halls being decked with green and red, for many nonprofit development teams, the year-end campaign is sadly a make-or-break attempt to balance their budget and end the year in the black and not the red.
3) WHY OLIVEWOOD GARDEN'S LETTER WORKS.
The letter continues, reminding me “you are part of that extraordinarily important community” that is changing children and families’ lives.
The letter does not talk about Olivewood Gardens, the nonprofit that needs money. The few times they reference themselves is to say “Our Olivewood family…,” immediately wrapping me into the fold as if in a soft blanket on a cold evening in front of a fire.
I don’t want to leave this letter, but there is a second page:
A letter from a fifth grade student that benefitted from her experience at Olivewood Gardens. And no, I am not “smarter than a fifth grader,” because I learned what “owl pellets” are.
4) Here's the ultimate question:
Will I give again now?
Without question. I love and believe in the work of this nonprofit, even though I only participate in their programming a few times a year.
But having received this beautiful letter today, I will remember them this year as I make my year-end contributions.
I will remember their life-changing work transforming lives through food.
I will remember the amazing experiences with dear friends at food-focused events in their gardens.
And this year...
I will reflect on some of my most cherished food memories with loved ones that are no longer here.
I will do all of this because of them, and for that...
I am deeply grateful.
Do you have a great year-end appeal letter that genuinely moved you? Let us know and share the love!