From a Fundraising Appeal to a Donor-Centered Appeal
Are you struggling to nail the perfect appeal letter? Whether we are sending appeals via email or direct mail, we will need to nail the ask. It needs to be solid, heartfelt—and donor-centered.
Nobody’s Getting Donor-Centered Right!
Everybody’s talking about donor-centered fundraising, but in my opinion, very few nonprofits are getting it right. I hate to say it, but I see some well-intentioned crap coming from some of my favorite nonprofits.
The Key to a Donor-Centered Appeal Letter: Connect the Donor Directly to Your Organization’s Work
Stop talking (bragging) about yourself and your wonderful organization. Stop taking credit for the change you create in the world. Instead, give the donor the credit.
Change the focus.
Tell your donors that they are going to change the world, not you. Talking about your nonprofit is self-centered. Talking about your work out in the world, and connecting your donor’s gift directly to your work is donor-centered.
What do I mean?
Going from Self-Centered to Donor-Centered
Here’s a self-centered ask:
- “Your renewed annual support is needed to help us fight for a strong, vibrant democracy."
Here’s the same ask in donor-centered language:
- "Your renewed annual support will help fight for a strong vibrant democracy."
- “Your gift of xxxx will help us educate and empower millions of citizens."
Donor-centered ask version:
- “Your gift of xxx will help educate and empower millions of citizens."
Harvey McKinnon, the brilliant direct mail guru, wrote me and suggested this line, instead of the one that I offered above. See what you think. Don’t you just love it?
- “Your gift of xxx will help educate and empower millions of citizens. Unless it’s $20 million it won’t help millions, but it could help one person."
- "Your gift will help us continue our contribution of great art to this community."
Donor-centered ask version:
- "Your gift will help bring great art to our very own community."
- "Your support is necessary to our ministry of providing care for those less fortunate and will make an impact on those in need in our community."
- "Your support helps minister directly to those less fortunate. Your generous gift extends a loving hand to those in need in our community."
So what exactly am I doing, and how am I doing this?
Remove the organization as the intermediary between the donor and your results.
Get rid of yourself as a focus in the letter. Get rid of the “us” and “we” stuff. Instead, help the donor feel directly connected to your own results. Use “you” and your.” In the last example above, instead of having the ministry be the provider of care, the donor is asked to provide the care.
The donor gets to extend a loving hand, instead of the organization extending its hand.
Can you get this right? Yes you can!
Revamp your next appeal letter with these donor-centered strategies in mind:
Be sure you use “you” more than the word “we.”
The great Ken Burnett (follow him!) says that “you is the most powerful word in fundraising.”
Donor-centered is quite difficult to nail. But it is required if you are going to really tap your donor’s true potential.