What’s the big deal? These guys will be around. I’ll donate next time I hear from them.

That just might be what many donors are thinking if YOU fail to give them a solid reason why they ought to donate right now.

In direct marketing we refer to this as giving the reader a sense of urgency.

Something too often overlooked in nonprofit marketing and fundraising.

Without a sense of urgency, your offer – whether a fundraising appeal, an invitation to join, asking them to sign a petition, etc. – may not generate as many responses as you had hoped. Urgency makes your offer more compelling and therefore more likely that people will respond.

In other words with urgency: You’ll raise more funds. Acquire and retain more members. Convert more donors to monthly giving. Etc.

Why is this? Two primary reasons.

Strike while the iron is hot. There is an old saying among direct marketers: “A decision deferred is a decision not made.”

Another reason to include urgency in your fundraising and marketing messages is to help you stand out from all the other marketing that is bombarding your prospects and supporters. Too many things are competing for their attention, and you need to give her sufficient motivation to do it right now, while the piece is still in her hands, or the email is displayed on her screen.

How do you add urgency?

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Add a time limit. It can either be a specific date, “Send your gift before June 30, 2012, so we have the funding to continue offering Masterpiece Theater this season.” Or it can be more generic, “You must reply within 15 days so your gift reaches us in time ...”

A specific date is preferred IF you can control the timing of when supporters receive your appeal. You don’t want it to arrive after the deadline!

And the shorter the time period to respond (e.g., 15 days versus 30), the more pressure there is to act quickly. But you may not want them to feel too rushed. Test it!

With email the time frames can be shorter.

Add a bonus or gift. There may be an added “bonus” or benefit to the prospect or supporter responding sooner. This is often seen when a major donor has offered to match funds raised. If a certain amount is raised even faster, sometimes the amount the major donor contributes is even greater.

Many environmental nonprofits are successful offering backend premiums as a bonus. And depending on your mission, the offer of a free report related to your mission might work well.

Limited number offer. If it’s genuine, this variation (scarcity) may also add urgency.

For example:  “The first 100 patrons, who respond with a gift of $500 or more receive a signed print by the artist …”

Early bird discount. This is commonly used for events and pre-publication offers for directories, books, and so forth.

How do you add urgency to your marketing and fundraising messages? How are you boosting response by giving readers a valid reason to respond NOW?

Whatever your method … here’s a word of caution: With all offers and the urgency you add, be honest. Readers will see right through the nonsense and bogus deadlines. It’s not worth the risk to make something up just for the sake of adding urgency.

More reading related to nonprofit “offers”:

Annoying lift note offers

Thoughts on your reply device

Testing the offer and more

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Photo Credit: “juditk” via PhotoPin.com