You’ve written an appeal that needs to go out the door yesterday. But you’ve been hearing all this news about being “donor-centered,” using “neuroscience,” and all those other buzzwords—and you’re not sure your letter measures up.
While it’s always better to study up before writing your appeal, I applaud you for the desire to continually improve.
So I’ll give you two quick fixes to improve your letter right now. And then after you get this out the door, come back to learn more about the why, when and how so that your next appeal really rocks.
Address the prospect directly by saying “you” and putting them at the center of the action.
If you’ve come into fundraising from another background, you probably carried over some habits that are blunting your appeal. One of those is to write objectively, in the third person.
The Education Equity Fund’s mission* is to ensure that children who live in lower-income neighborhoods have the same educational opportunities as children who live in wealthy neighborhoods.
That’s nice and factual but as dry as day-old toast. Imagine you’re speaking directly to the donor and use “you” in your phrasing.
When you support the Education Equity Fund, you ensure that children who live in lower-income neighborhoods have the same opportunities as those who live in wealthy neighborhoods.
Now you’ve helped the prospect to picture how they’re making a difference. Your appeal recipients can picture themselves much easier than they can picture your amorphous blob of an organization. (I’m sure your organization and the people within it are very lovely, but a donor can’t picture an organization.)
*A fictional organization with a worthy (fictional) mission.
Invite the prospect to take action if they share your belief.
Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Tell the prospect what you stand for and invite them to join you if they share your belief. They’ll have to examine their conscience and decide whether they agree with you. Even if they only take a few seconds to do this, you’ve engaged them and created a mental connection with them.
So, what might a belief statement look like? Try taking your mission statement and flipping it a little bit. And go ahead and say “if you believe,” straight out:
If you believe that a child’s educational opportunities should not be determined by their zip code, please support the Education Equity Fund today.
If you believe that all children should have the opportunity to fulfill their potential, I hope you’ll donate to the Education Equity Fund today.
There’s another benefit to this, too—the prospect gets to flatter themselves. I’m sure you do something amazing and socially justice-oriented in the community. When your prospect co-signs that statement, they get to feel great – “Yes! I DO believe in social justice, too!”
Now, go make those changes before you get the final sign-off, and come back for more insights on how to use our knowledge of donor psychology to create more effective appeals.