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Design Tips for a Printed Year End Appeal

It’s the season of giving and a well-crafted fundraising appeal is integral to any non-profit organization’s end-of-the-year development strategy. With this in mind, Dowitcher Designs Graphic Designer Gina has outlined a few strategies and tips that will aid you in creating a powerful ask that brings in more money for your organization.


If you have the job of designing a printed year-end-appeal, you have three main goals to accomplish:

1) Make your organization stand out.

Develop a concept that will engage the recipient. They may be receiving multiple appeal letters throughout the season, and might only choose a single one to contribute to. Do everything you can to make it be yours. Be unique!

2) Be sincere.

Hopefully the author of the letter has done a good job writing a letter that highlights the important work the organization does in a compelling and passionate way. Make sure your design echoes the emotional tone of the letter. Choose assets that emphasize the message they want to convey; if you are using photos, pick ones that that feel authentic, not staged.

3) Stay on brand.

Ideally, your organization has a brand identity that is the backbone of their communications and positioning. Keep your design in-line with the look and feel of the brand, because having a cohesive visual style makes an organization appear professional and consistent…important things to communicate when asking for support. (Not to mention the fact that your design may not get approved if you don’t!)


 A year-end appeal needs to have a few specific pieces to work, and may include creative extras that can set your work apart from the bunch.

1) Letter

A designer can do a lot to elevate the design from a standard format to a piece that feels thoughtful and custom. In our campaign for Dream Foundation, we used pull-quotes to emphasize compelling statements within the letter. We styled these using a watercolor brushstroke and a typeface with a hand-written look to lend a human touch. Also, ask the author of the letter for a digital file of their signature to include in the sign-off.

2) Enclosing envelope

Needless to say, the enclosing envelope is the first thing your audience will see. Try to avoid using an envelope that makes the piece look like junk mail or a bill. For Dream Foundation’s appeal, we chose an A7 envelope (5.25 x 7.25 inches), a size that is typically used for invitations and greeting cards. We wanted our audience to recognize that this was a meaningful piece of mail, not something for their recycling bin.

3) Donation envelope, or donation slip with a separate envelope

You need to provide your audience with a simple way to make their donation. We think that a custom-designed donation slip and a separate return envelope feels more personal than a tear-off section or a combined remit envelope/slip, so that’s what we chose. When designing the donation slip, make sure it is well-organized and easy to read…don’t make donating a difficult task!

4) Other elements

This is your chance to get creative with leave-behinds that the recipient can hang on to as a reminder of their contribution. It’s also a way to include an additional emotional element to underline your cause. We created cards with touching photos and stories of Dreamers, and there are endless ways to create variations on cards or shareable items specific to your non-profit and the concept behind your year-end appeal.

5) Calls to action

Don’t overlook this crucial element. Calls to action are a way to give direction to the reader as well as add style to the design of the piece. They can be a simple thank you message that inspires the reader to act, or a line that tells them where they can find more information. Ours included a variation on Dream Foundation’s tagline—“I want to give life to final Dreams.”

6) Personalization

The more personalized, the better! If possible, personalize each letter to the individual recipient in the first line of the letter, not just in the address bar on the outside of the envelope. Appeals can also be personalized by group. For example the author of the letter might write a slightly different version for different target audiences, and you might vary your design a bit to echo that.

Year-end giving is huge and an incredible opportunity to tap into your supporters’ generosity. It’s quite possibly the most important communications your non-profit will send out all year. Your year-end appeal must stand out, speak to your donors, and make a clear, compelling case for why they should give. Writing and designing a fundraising appeal that works is a difficult task; we hope these design tips help you craft a great printed year-end appeal.

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