Creating a sense of urgency in your appeal messaging will help move readers to become donors. Think this is a trick that no longer applies? Consider the case of two nonprofits reaching the same potential donor. If the first nonprofit conveys a sense of urgency in the fundraising appeal and the second does not, in the donor’s mind, the first nonprofit needs the money more than the second. The donor will think I can give to the first nonprofit now to solve the immediate problem and give to the second nonprofit later … they don’t need my immediate donation. The problem comes when the donor forgets to give to the second organization or receives another urgent appeal from an organization and gives to them instead of the original organization that didn’t include urgency in their appeal.
Using urgency isn’t a trick; it is necessary for your organization to accomplish your great work. If you don’t urgently need the funds, what are you doing? You need the funds right now to continue completing your mission. Your audience wants to know that your organization is effective in placing their funds to know your mission will be accomplished. Donors are giving because they’re passionate about a cause, not because they’re passionate about your organization.
Add or improve the urgency in your fundraising appeals to demonstrate to your donors that you’re moving forward with their cause.
1. Tell Them What They’ll Miss Out On
Explain to the donor what they will not have experienced if they don’t give. Every donor has a reason for giving, perhaps it’s the feeling they get when they donate, or it could be in exchange for a premium. Whatever the cause, look at the type of donor you’re targeting with the appeal and write your language to explain to that person what they’ll be missing out on.
2. What Happens If the Donor Doesn’t Give?
There is a consequence if the donor doesn’t give, right? You may not have enough income to cover your project expenses, your nonprofit, or this campaign. Or perhaps if it’s a match, you won’t get the remaining match dollars. If it’s a building fund, you may not be able to get financing for the project or even complete the building. It could be that families will go hungry because you didn’t raise enough to meet demand. The donor needs to understand, in a straightforward way, what happens if they don’t give.
3. Set a Deadline
Tell the donor if you have a specific deadline for your fundraising appeal. This might be as simple as an amount you need to raise this month or the end date for a particular campaign. I never encourage you to be dishonest with your donors, but there is often a deadline you have that you’re just not communicating with your donors. People naturally respond to deadlines. Set a deadline for when you need to raise the money. Don’t be surprised if much of the giving happens in the last few days before the deadline; it’s a very natural donor behavior.
4. Repeat the Ask
In your appeal, you may need to repeat the ask several times. Why is this? Repetition builds urgency in the reader’s mind to let them know you really need this donation. The other reason is people don’t read word for word your appeal. They skip around, read the opening, then the PS, then the first paragraph, then something that grabs their eyes later in the copy. Repeating your ask will catch people who skip around or skim your appeal.
5. Use Urgent Language
Urgent language like “now” and “today” and even the word “urgent” helps set the frame in the reader’s mind that you need the money immediately. Use words like immediate, now, today, late, tonight, and deadline. Words like these trigger a sense of urgency in the reader’s mind.
6. Use a Story Demonstrating Urgency
Within your story of the one, or story of the beneficiary and how your nonprofit transformed his life with the help of a donor, tell of the urgency of getting help. For example, if your beneficiary is a single mom who just lost her home, explain the emotional struggle that caused not having a place to live but urgently needing shelter and food. Your reader will feel the same sense of urgency and want to help someone like the beneficiary in your story.
Stories are a great way to illustrate the urgency of a situation and to connect with donors on an emotional level. If you have any stories about how not meeting your fundraising goal has affected people in the past, be sure to share them in your appeal. The more concrete and relatable the story, the better.
7. Use Data to Show Urgency
If you have any data that supports your case for urgency, use it in your appeal. This could be how many people will be affected by not meeting your fundraising goal, how much ground you’ve already covered, or how close you are to reaching your goal. Data can be a powerful way to show urgency without being over the top about it.
8. Describe the Consequences in Relatable Terms
When you’re describing the consequences of not meeting your fundraising goal, make sure to do so in terms that your donor can understand and relate to. For example, if you’re trying to raise money for a new roof on a school, don’t just say that the roof will leak if you don’t reach your goal. Instead, explain that the children will be sitting in puddles during class and their books will get ruined. This is a much more relatable way of describing the consequences and it will help the donor to understand the urgency of the situation.
Your organization has an urgent need; you need to raise funds to accomplish your excellent work. When you explain this to your donor, you will grow more funds and help more people.