3 Ways to Improve Your Fundraising Appeals
If you’re in charge of the fundraising for your nonprofit or part of an in-house team, the single best thing you can do to improve your fundraising is to come to terms with a hard truth.
You are not your donors.
For one thing, your donors are probably much older than you are. Likely in their 70s and beyond, they have a completely different experiential background than you do and a completely different outlook on life. And because of that, their idea about what constitutes a compelling fundraising appeal is probably completely different from yours.
Not only that, your perspective is from the inside of your charity. So what seems important and relevant to you probably won’t seem that way to your donors. You’re in the bubble. Your donors aren’t. They’re on the outside. The two perspectives are completely different.
These disparities in age and point of view play out in your appeals in three main ways.
Those images of happy, smiling people that you believe show your nonprofit doing a good job — they’re probably not engaging your donors. You might think that happy photos cast your nonprofit in a positive light, while photos of a sad child or a hungry adult will seem negative. But your donors see it differently.
Your donors want to make an impact with their gift. When they see those so-called negative photos, they see a need. They see a problem to be solved. They see something they can do to change the world. So, work with your donors, not against them. Show the problem. Show your donors the difference they can make. Show photos of need.
The stories with a positive ending that you believe show your organization doing good work and make your appeals seem uplifting — they’re actually undercutting your fundraising results. How? Those stories signal to donors that the problem has already been solved — which means there’s nothing for your donor to do.
Instead, in your appeals, tell stories of need, not stories of success. Save the success stories for your newsletter. In your appeals, tell stories that dramatize the opportunity for your donors to do good. Stories of need do that.
You may think fundraising copy is corny, emotional, repetitive and simplistic. And you may think it’s incorrect to begin sentences with “and” or “but.” To use sentence fragments. Or, contractions like “can’t” and “won’t.”
But that’s not how donors see it. The fact is, donors respond best to copywriting that’s emotional, simple, direct and informal — you know, write-like-you-talk copywriting. That’s what works.
What doesn’t work is writing that’s formal, dry or academic. Writing that bristles with 50-cent words. Writing that uses euphemisms like “food insecurity” when you really mean “hunger.” That kind of copywriting is going to bore your donors or make them feel like you’re trying to snow them with malarkey. That’s why plain talk is best. It’s direct. It’s visceral. And it’s believable. Your donors will appreciate it, and they’ll reward you for it.
When it comes to creating or reviewing fundraising appeals, you can’t go by what you personally like or don’t like. Lots of nonprofit professionals learn this the hard way. Don’t be one of them.
Your fundraising isn’t about you. It’s about your donors. If you insist on making it about you and your preferences, your donors will let you know by simply ignoring your fundraising. If you make it about them, their frame of reference, their values and their heart for the cause, they’ll respond. And your nonprofit will grow.
The preceding blog was provided by an individual unaffiliated with NonProfit PRO. The views expressed within do not directly reflect the thoughts or opinions of NonProfit PRO.
Related story: 8 Questions to Ask to Get Inside Your Donor’s Head
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.