Urgent, Not Hysterical
Hysteria is: “Our enemy is not just dangerous, he’s evil. He has a secret plan to destroy everything you and I hold dear. If you don’t make a gift right now, your children will have no future and the world as we know it will end.”
Those “chicken-little” appeals can be effective for preaching to a choir that believes the sky really will fall if the evil-doers have their way. But those people have always been, and, one hopes, always will be, a small minority. And while they may be extremely loyal, you can only draw water from the same well so many times.
If you want to raise funds beyond your smallest core of supporters, you may need to raise your head above the trenches occasionally and make sure you say things that resonate with a larger group of people.
It may not be as emotionally satisfying as railing against an enemy you despise, but a little moderation just might bring in a lot more resources. So definitely be passionate, be urgent, be forceful and be aggressive. But be believable too.
Heaven knows, if you don’t, it will be the end of democracy as we know it.
Willis Turner believes great writing has the power to change minds, save lives, and make people want to dance and sing. Willis is the creative director at Huntsinger & Jeffer. He worked as a lead writer and creative director in the traditional advertising world for more than 15 years before making the switch to fundraising 20 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, and collateral communications materials that get attention, tell powerful stories and persuade people to take action or make a donation.