Many of the Queens Public Library’s most popular and needed programs occur in the fall and are connected to the school year – literacy programs, homework assistance and more. These programs are often used by lower income families who might not otherwise have access to after-school care and tutoring help with homework. But despite the great need for revenue at this time of year, and the natural back-to-school window in which to discuss the children in need of these important services, the fall had been a historically slow fundraising period for the Queens Public Library Foundation. As a result, the organization hadn’t mailed an appeal in September in several years.
Our goal was to create an appeal to active donors that would perform at a level similar to other times of year and generate net revenue for the organization during this traditionally difficult fundraising window –all to help fill this critical need in the community!
First, we asked about the various program offerings to determine if one was suited to highlight in this appeal. We learned that the STACKS afterschool program was in high demand – with only about 700 available spots across the borough in New York – when more than 1500 kids were interested in participating.
Then we wrote a letter that detailed the program, how it benefited the kids who participated, their families AND the larger community. We gathered testimonials from proud parents (in English and Spanish) and detailed the costs associated with the program (supplies and materials, staff, etc.)
Finally, we decided that an engagement device – bookmarks in this case – would not only help lift the response rate – but also give the donor the opportunity to share a bookmark with a child in the program and foster a love of reading (one of the many benefits of this program).
We are happy to report that this appeal generated the strongest response rate of any appeal the Queens Library Foundation had mailed in several years. Nearly 12% of donors sent back a donation – an astonishing response rate. In addition, donors returned notes of support to the children who participate in the STACKS program and, of course, many returned a bookmark to share as well.
The results impressed everyone and the additional revenue at a typically slow time of year will help ensure that the low-income children in Queens continue to have access to a critical after-school program.