Two ways to begin a fundraising appeal – from Jerry Huntsinger

In Jerry Huntsinger’s “86 Tutorials in Creating Fundraising Letters and Packages,” he makes a point about how to begin a fundraising appeal.

He makes his point with an example. It’s an appeal for a cancer charity. It begins:

“Children shouldn’t have to face the devastation of cancer and death. But they do. Each year, hundreds of children…”

It’s the standard, institutional, boilerplate blah, blah, blah. Jerry notes that where the letter actually begins is in the fifth paragraph, with this:

“Lance was diagnosed with leukemia two days before Christmas. He was 2 years old. ‘Lance was so sick that they flew us to Twin Cities for immediate treatment,’ his mother said. ‘His platelets were so low that his teeth bled through the night.’”

BAM – there you are, right in the middle of the drama. Nothing institutional about that. Nothing blah, blah, blah about that. Especially that detail about the boy’s teeth bleeding – that detail gets you.

Sure, starting an appeal with a story is a tried-and-true approach. But here’s the point. The first opening – “Children’s shouldn’t have to face …” – is basic expository prose. It’s simply explaining something. It’s simply conveying a generalization about children and cancer. It’s not trying to involve you. (It’s something you’d get from ChatGPT if you asked it to write an appeal about childhood cancer.)

The second opening – “Lance was diagnosed …” – is meant specifically to involve you. It’s telling you that this letter is about a human drama playing out right before your eyes. It’s one human being talking to another.

As Jerry says, the second opening will raise more money.

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