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Fundraising Appeals That Resonate With Donors

A fundraising appeal is one of the most important communications you'll send to your supporters. An effective appeal will not only raise critical funds for your organization, but also create a meaningful connection with your donor and cultivate a lasting relationship. Your appeal should combine strategy and storytelling to create a meaningful piece that will grab your donor's attention in all the right ways. Here's how.

Get started

Before you put pen to paper (or finger to key), think about your goal. How will you define success for this campaign? Are you trying to raise a specific dollar amount? Are you raising funds for a certain project or program? It may make sense to work that goal into the appeal or, in the case of a time-sensitive project, use it to create a sense of urgency. As communicated to your supporters, the goal should be specific and attainable.

If you use a specific goal in your campaign, it also provides you with an opportunity to send out follow-up appeals with goal progress. Donors are motivated by the idea of helping to push a campaign across the finish line ("...just 15 more $100 donations to reach our goal!"). Supporters want to feel like they're playing an integral role in your organization's success, so your ultimate objective in any campaign is to make them feel like they're an important part of your story.

Before getting started, it's also helpful to consider the appeal's target audience. You may want to approach a younger audience differently than an older one. Likewise, established donors may be interested in different communications than new donors. Segmentation can be an important component in effectively targeting your desired audience.

Tell your story

Why are so many people attracted to a good love story? Because it makes them feel. Your central goal as you write your fundraising appeal is to create that emotional response in your donor. In my experience, storytelling is the best way to create that evocative connection with your donors that inspires them to give. Ask that client who has been deeply affected by your services to tell his or her story. Use that story to show the impact of your donor's gift in a clear, concise, but meaningful, way.

Finally, tie that story into your call to action. How does this story relate to your organization, mission, and programs? How will their donation make a direct impact on clients just like the one in the story? Be specific about how their donation can help.

Keep it donor-centric

I often see organizations communicating the impact they have on their clients, but failing to connect that impact to their donors. It's really important to explain that an organization's success is the donor's success. Consider the following two statements:

Thanks to your generous support, Helping Hands Food Bank provided hot meals, full bellies, and peace of mind to 1,000 grateful families this month.

This month, you provided hot meals, full bellies, and peace of mind to 1,000 grateful families. Thank you for the impact you make in our community.

See the difference? It's a small but meaningful distinction.

Make it easy

This probably goes without saying, but the easier you make the donation process, the more donations you'll receive. Have you ever started the process of donating online, only to give up because the donation page took forever to load, wasn't mobile friendly, or some other hurdle caused you to abandon ship?

Always, always, always make it easy for your donors to give. If you're currently using a clunky process or interface, switch to a user-friendly fundraising platform. There are free fundraising solutions out there that will upgrade your donation page and even provide added features like event ticketing and P2P/team fundraising. And have I mentioned free?? Ask me for my recs!

Consider this

According to Nonprofit Tech for Good, 30% of annual giving occurs in December, and 12% of annual giving occurs on the last three days of the year. Timing is important, especially in a year-end campaign. If you have a way to incentivize donors, that's a great time to do it. Do you have loyal supporter who you can always count on to make an impactful year-end gift? This year, ask them if they might consider leveraging that donation into a matching gift campaign.

If you don't have one specific donor in mind for a matching campaign, you can also pool a few smaller donations into a larger campaign. Every campaign is different based on the organization — obviously, a smaller, local nonprofit will have a different matching campaign goal than a larger, national nonprofit. A campaign that works for one nonprofit may not work for you — your goal is to figure out what works for your organization, not NPOs across the board.

And on that note, analyze past performance of your own fundraising campaigns. It might take a little while to find the right "formula" that resonates with your donors, but once you find it, you're on your way.

Feeling overwhelmed? Still don't know where to start? Fundraising appeals are one of my favorite things to write! Let's connect.


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