If you can at least cover the basic pillars of a fundraising appeal … then even if the quality of your writing isn’t superb, you ought to get a respectable response.
Let’s face facts. At many nonprofits people are given the task to write the appeals — digital or print — when copywriting isn’t their forte. Nonetheless, I say again that if you include the fundamental elements of the appeal you’ve got a fighting chance to get an acceptable response rate.
What are the eight pillars?
1. Know your audience: Current donors, lapsed donors or prospects. Their age and other demographics (e.g., if the vast majority is over the age of 65 – and they probably are – then write according to their life experiences and history, not yours). And for your house file, personalize the appeals as much as possible based on donor history (e.g., giving levels, areas of interest, etc.).
2. Write the P.S. first where you repeat the main theme, idea or thread of your appeal. Include another “ask.”
3. Have a story to tell and do your utmost to tell it well. I strongly recommend writing about one person or one family to keep it more personal and relatable. And if you’re not ready to tackle nonprofit storytelling, then give donors problems to solve.
4. Write in a casual (don’t get too hung up on strictly correct grammar), warm and friendly donor-centric style. Make the font large enough for someone age 55+ to easily read, have plenty of white space, and short paragraphs.
5. Don’t garble your message with nonprofit jargon.
6. For heaven sake, ask for their donation more than once. I recommend once on the first page, and twice on page two plus the P.S. for a standard two-page appeal. In email, a lot depends on the length, but likely twice in the body plus the P.S.
7. Overcome their objections by answering key questions within the copy for your fundraising appeal. Focus on what your donors want to know and what’s important to them!
8. And as you write, keep in mind how the donor will feel when they help people (via their donation to your nonprofit). Do NOT keep thinking about how much money you need to raise because your copy won’t be as good.
Those are my 8 pillars for today. If you ask me next week what the pillars are, the last one (i.e., number 8) might vary, but 1 through 7 are the guts of a solid fundraising appeal. Practice those, look for winning samples of appeals when you go to conferences to compare with your copy, and you’ll slowly but surely improve the quality of your writing as well.
Meanwhile, there are more references at the very bottom of the page (links to more related blog posts). But first here is an infographic I found that’s another nice summary on the guts of a solid fundraising appeal . . .
More basics to master for strong fundraising appeals – digital or print:
Source of infographic…bloomerang