Do you want to know the secret to an excellent fundraising appeal? The one question you should ask?

Did you make the reader feel good?

A great fundraising appeal makes the reader feel like her gift will make a difference. She feels like she will accomplish something by giving.

Unfortunately, we often focus on the wrong questions:

  1. Is the fundraising “on brand?”
  2. Did we adequately explain our program?
  3. Is everyone at our organization happy with the appeal?
  4. Does it meet the expectations of the executive director?
  5. Will we receive any complaints?
  6. Did we include enough “tricks” like call-outs, highlighting, handwriting, or giving coupons?
  7. Is the copy too long? Too short?

By focusing on the right question, did we make the reader feel good, you have a greater chance of aligning her desires with your donation opportunity. How do we make the reader feel good?

1. Write the Appeal from the Point of View of the Donor

I donate to a variety of charities to get onto their mailing lists and see how they do fundraising. Unfortunately, far too many charities write from their perspective and not the point of view of the donor. What I mean is this: too many charities spend the entire appeal talking about themselves. This is what we will accomplish. This is how we are doing good. This is the problem we are solving. They don’t talk about how the donor is solving the problem. How the donor is helping the beneficiary.

This is an easy test to determine if you’re spending too much time writing about your nonprofit:

  1. Count the number of times you use “I”, “we”, and “us” in your text copy.
  2. Count the number of times you use “you” and “your” in your text copy.

Now compare the two numbers. If your first number is higher than your second, you’re talking about yourself too much. Start writing from the point of view of the donor. (If you want to explore this topic more, see the Story of the One.)

2. Connect the Donation to a Positive Outcome

Tell the donor what the donation will be used for and how it will make a difference. For example, if you are a health supplies charity providing medicines and health supplies to people in need, show the donor how the money will be used with examples.

Your gift of $30 will provide a month’s supply of antibiotics to one person in need. With a gift of $60 you’ll help 2 people, $90 will help three!

Next, connect the donation to a story of someone who was helped.

Annette fell down on the playground at school and scraped her knee. The scrape seemed small at the time, something your child may do on any given day. But soon, Annette’s leg was infected and the infection began to spread. Without antibiotics, Annette’s family feared she would lose part of her leg. But a donor like you stepped in and provided the necessary antibiotics to cure Annette. Now she’s back to playing at school.

Connecting the donation to a specific outcome will help the donor understand what good he or she is doing.

3. Identify Your Value Proposition

The value proposition for your nonprofit is the unique, exclusive, value the donor receives by giving to your organization. What makes your organization special that the donor can’t be fulfilled anywhere else?

This can be a difficult internal conversation. Is there something that differentiates your organization from dozens of other nonprofits in your segment? If not, why not? What makes your organization worth supporting out of the hundreds vying for my attention?

The value proposition is what convinces the donor that your organization offers value she won’t find elsewhere.

The value proposition describes who you are, what significant work you do, how you are unique, and why a donor should support your organization. It speaks to the transformation your organization makes in both the lives of the beneficiaries and donors.

The value proposition is not about how awesome your organization is. If your value proposition is about how “we” or “I” make a difference, you’re missing the mark. Instead, it is about how “you,” the donor, makes a difference in the lives of beneficiaries. For example, of your organization supports local seniors, the value proposition for a donor could be:

Help seniors in your community whom you know and love receive healthy meals

This value proposition speaks directly to the donor. If you are someone who knows and loves the seniors in your community, you can help them receive healthy meals. The value you receive is fulfilling your desire to help people you know and love.

Identifying your unique value proposition can be a difficult yet fulfilling process. It will help you create better connections with your donors.

4. Personalize Your Appeals

You increase the likelihood of a joy filled outcome for your donor when you personalize your appeals to her specific giving desires.

There are two ways to personalize the types of appeals she receives. First, ask her early on once you have an email address what she’s most interested in supporting and then tag her in your email service provider. The second way to know what she’s interested in is to look at her giving history. For example, if you offer clean water, agricultural training, and education as three pillars of programs and she consistently gives to clean water, you’ll bless her by showing her more clean water appeals than other appeals. It doesn’t mean you should stop appealing for other areas, but should weight her appeals to receive more clean water asks.

Personalization helps the donor believe that you care for her because you’re paying attention to what she supports.

When you creative giving opportunities that make the reader feel good, you’ve aligned their giving desires with the programs you offer.