How to Create a Fundraising Message That Works
To persuade donors to give amid an increasingly competitive nonprofit landscape, you must move your messaging away from organizational needs and toward social impact. In so doing, you will enjoy an individual donor base that is more invested, engaged and committed to the work your nonprofit does in the community.
Creating a message of impact is one part of the larger effort of moving your nonprofit from fundraising to financing. Fundraising often uses the messaging of organizational need:
- "We need $100 to provide our programs."
- "We need $1,000 to meet our goals."
- "We need to build a new building."
But that's not how to raise money effectively.
To raise significant money, nonprofits need to focus on how they translate money into social change. The fundraising message of organizational need stops at the nonprofit. The fundraising message of social impact takes the argument much further, demonstrating how a nonprofit translates funds raised into social change, through a three-step process:
- A donor invests in a nonprofit.
- That investment is translated by the nonprofit's theory of change into social impact.
- A change occurs in the community.
The nonprofit is merely an intermediary between a donor and social impact. Therefore, the donor is not investing in a nonprofit; rather they are investing in the social impact the nonprofit creates.
Helping to create social change is much more powerful to a donor than simply helping a nonprofit organization. And it garners larger, longer-term donor investment and engagement in the work of the organization.
So what does this actually look like in your messaging? Let's take an example of an after-school program for at-risk children.
According to the nonprofit's theory of change, it translates dollars into positive outcomes for the children in its charge (increased student achievement, fewer high-school drop outs, fewer behavioral issues). If the nonprofit were to fundraise around the organization's needs it might sound like this:
"Help us reach our goal of raising $100,000 for our program."
But if instead the organization were to fundraise around a message of social impact, it might sound like this:
"Invest in our work to give kids a better future, making them contributing members of society and our community stronger and healthier."
The first message is about strengthening an organization; the second message is about strengthening a community.
The message of impact is not just something nonprofits should use for major individual donor fundraising. It can be used to varying degrees in all fundraising campaigns, large or small, and in all channels (social media, direct mail, e-mail, in-person). In so doing, the organization creates a loyal following of donors who believe in the change the nonprofit is creating and view themselves as critical partners in making that change happen.
Nell Edgington is president of Social Velocity.