5 Ways to Use One Powerful Fundraising Word
The most common words have the greatest number of definitions, the most nuanced meanings. For example, look through some successful appeals and acquisition packages and count the number of times you see the word "help."
"It's a common word, one you use every day," as Groucho Marx would say, and it probably pops up again in your fundraising copy. But the shades of meaning it offers can help you reach your readers in different ways with different results.
For example, here are five common fundraising phrases. No doubt you've used them all many times. On the surface they seem to mean pretty much the same thing. But your reader will hear each one a little differently. And quella piccola differenza, that little difference, can determine how your donor will feel — and how she'll respond — as she makes her way through your letter.
"Your gift will help" as in, "Your gift will help People for Puppies buy blankets for our kennels." You can't tell a donor her gift will fix a problem all by itself. This language serves a qualifier that lets you avoid that in a positive way. It invites a donor or prospect into your organization's community of caring. It tells her she'll be part of something meaningful. Something bigger than herself.
We often talk about the importance of giving donors a sense of exclusivity so they feel special. But it's also important to give them a feeling of inclusivity, so they feel like members of a strong, progressive group. It helps them believe their gifts matter.
"Please help me," as in, "Please help me provide shelter for more single moms like Kayla." This empowers the reader. It puts her on the front lines, shoulder to shoulder with you in making a change. It says, "I can't do it without you," which makes the donor feel needed.
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.