There’s a structure that’s often used for fundraising appeals even though it’s not really all that good for getting donors to give. This post at the Better Fundraising Company blog shows us what this structure is, and it goes something like this:
- Thank you, Mrs. Donor, for your support in the past.
- Martha and her daughter, Vicki, have a safe place to live now because of your gifts.
- Please give so we can help someone else like them.
You see this structure again and again in appeals, even though results say it’s often not the best way to go.
The problem is that this structure fails to present a specific problem and a specific solution that the donor can latch onto. Because of that, it removes one of the most important reasons that donors give – the ability to make a real difference. In the case of Martha and Vicki, the problem has been solved. They’re not homeless anymore. So instead of telling the donor about a person who does need help, this appeal talks about the two people who don’t need help anymore.
What causes fundraisers to take this approach? It’s most likely the fear of asking. It can be hard to ask people for money. And because some fundraisers are uncomfortable about asking for money, they think that donors are uncomfortable being asked.
Even experienced fundraisers fall into this trap. As a result, they try to cushion the blow of asking for money by reinforcing the donor’s past gifts and telling a story that’s all good news.
Usually in these kinds of appeals, the copy goes on and on about how Martha and Vicki are doing so well at the homeless shelter because of the donor’s past support. And often there’s no mention of the struggles that brought Martha and Vicki to the homeless shelter in the first place – only the fact that mother and daughter are living transformed lives. And often in these kinds of appeals, there are few asks. In fact, it’s not unusual to see only one ask, often at the very end of the appeal. As if the charity were hesitant to ask at all.
Why do this?
The fact is, donors expect to be asked to give. They want to give. That’s why they opened the letter or email in the first place. They knew they were getting into a fundraising appeal, not a letter from their long-lost sister Matilda.
What they want and what they will respond to in an appeal is a problem to solve and a compelling way to solve it. Because then they can feel like they’re doing a good deed, instead of simply reinforcing a good deed that’s already been accomplished.