7 Ways to Use Verbal Images to Pull Donors Into Your Appeal
You’ve come up with a great offer for your fundraising appeal — the need, the ask, the call to action and so on. Now what? How do you get your donors to really lean in?
You take the offer and hold it up in front of your donors like a gemstone and slowly turn it, right before their eyes, so they can see it in all its facets and get interested in it and moved by it … moved enough to give.
You do it with verbal images in your copy. The reason is simple. If you’re just telling your donors about your offer and your cause, you’re losing them. You can’t just tell. You have to show.
“No ideas but in things,” as poet William Carlos Williams famously said. And he’s right, of course. To engage your readers, you want to pull your ideas down from the ether and express them through the things of the world. Copy that’s abstract philosophizing about the cause won’t grab donors. Verbal images will.
A verbal image is different from a story. Fundraising stories are narratives — this happens, then that happens and so on. A verbal image, even though it may have some narrative elements, is essentially a snapshot — a succinct, sharply focused picture that readers immediately get. And that’s where it draws its power. Precisely because of its brevity and clarity, a verbal image can often persuade donors more readily than a longer story. But there’s no need to choose an image over a story for your appeal. Both can work together.
A verbal image is concrete. You can write in your appeal, for example, that your charity has 1,000 pounds of medical supplies to distribute. But that’s abstract. It’s unlikely to have much of an impact, because your donor can’t envision 1,000 pounds. Instead, you can write that your charity has boxes and boxes of antibiotics, bandages, vaccines, stethoscopes and crutches, stacked from the floor to the ceiling, filling up the entire warehouse, just waiting to be shipped. That’s concrete. It’s something your donors can see in their mind’s eye.
An agency-trained, award-winning, freelance fundraising copywriter and consultant with years of on-the-ground experience, George specializes in crafting direct mail appeals, online appeals and other communications that move donors to give. He serves major nonprofits with projects ranging from specialized appeals for mid-level and high-dollar donors, to integrated, multichannel campaigns, to appeals for acquisition, reactivation and cultivation.