6 Ways to Motivate Donors
You can’t argue with physics. Isaac Newton’s first of law of motion is that an object at rest will stay at rest unless it’s acted upon by an outside force. The law is immutable and applies to people as well as objects … including donors and prospects.
Your job is to be that outside force — to put your donor in motion, emotionally and physically, so he or she cares about your mission and cares enough to make a gift. Fortunately, you have a whole host of tools at your disposal to help you lift, pry, shove, compel, jostle, elbow, convince, arrest, inspire and motivate those who read your appeals into action.
1. Make the reader notice your outer envelope. At the Engage Conference in April, I got into a discussion with several people about whether to use a teaser on an OE. It’s a good topic, but you have to make sure the reader sees your package to begin with. There’s a lot of competition in the donor’s mailbox, so every now and then you need to step beyond that No. 10 white wove envelope. That could mean using a compelling teaser; sometimes it’s an odd-sized carrier or a bright color. But if donors don’t see your letter, the game is over before it’s begun.
2. Compel the donor inside. This is where the teaser (or not) comes in. Sometimes a blank OE creates enough curiosity to drive people inside. The most important thing to remember about a teaser is that it has to tease — not tell the reader what’s inside the package. A photo of a sad child and a teaser like, “Please help her find a place to sleep tonight,” tells the reader all she needs to know. There’s no reason to open the package unless she is predisposed to give. On the other hand, “What’s the one thing she’ll need most tonight?” can create enough curiosity to give you a chance to make your case in the letter.
3. Point to words you want people to notice. Everybody knows (I think) to underline key words and phrases you want readers to notice. But you can do so much more. Use call-out boxes of text, photo captions, “handwritten” margin notes and other marks to create a hierarchy of your critical message points. Draw arrows, circles, even pictures to keep your reader involved with the package. But don’t make the page too busy to read, of course. White space generally trumps everything else as long as it forces the reader to see what you want him or her to see.
4. Lead with a story — if you don’t have a story, lead with the reader. A strong story grabs the reader’s attention right from the start and holds it for as long as you keep it interesting. If you don’t have a good story, open with an emphasis on the reader, not your organization, e.g., “There’s something you need to know about what’s happening to your drinking water …”
5. If you use bullets, put the strongest points at the top and bottom. The middle generally gets read last, not second.
6. Answer one question above others: Why you? Most donors give to a number of organizations because they care about more than one thing. So while you’re convincing them to donate you also have to persuade them why they should donate to you and not one of the many other organizations that have missions similar to yours. Imagine your donor or prospect, sitting there at home, minding her own business, not bothering anybody. She’s comfortable, content … inert. That’s not going to change just because you write to her. Plenty of other people are doing that too. And a lot of them are offering something a lot more tangible for her money than just the emotional reward of helping you.
Getting her moving takes some doing, but it can be done. The half dozen techniques above will help. There are dozens of others, and we’ll talk about a lot more of them soon.
Willis believes in expressive writing, exceptional fundraising, and exuberant living.
Willis Turner is the senior copywriter at Huntsinger & Jeffer. He was an experienced writer and creative director in the traditional advertising world for more than 20 years before making the switch to fundraising nearly 15 years ago. In his work with nonprofit organizations and associations, he has written thousands of appeals, renewals and acquisition communications for every medium. He creates direct-response campaigns, as well as collateral materials and communications, that get attention, tell emotional stories, and persuade people to take action or make a donation.