Today I received an appeal from a fantastic organization. Their mission is incredible. Their people are awesome. The work they do is divine. But I can't say as much for their appeal. The appeal's biggest problem? It is a repeating rehash and reminder of all that they do. And, with all the repeating reminders of what they do, they ask for me, the donor, to help them do it.
In short, their appeal says, "here's what we do; will you help us do it?"
Yes, it is an appeal for money, just not an effective one.
You may be scratching your head and wondering, what's wrong with that? Here's the answer: appeals that highlight the donor's potential impact rather than the organizations are much more effective.
Asking donors to help you do something doesn't make them active participants in what you are doing. When you are doing all the work, it doesn't highlight their potential impact.
Attracting new prospective donors, getting that elusive second gift, and improving donor relationships come when you show your supporters exactly how their gifts impact and help your mission.
Fundraising gold nugget: Showcasing your donor's potential impact is totally different from showcasing your organization's impact.
What is the difference? The biggest telltale in an organizational centered appeal is the continual use of the words "we," "us," and the ministry name. After you write your appeal, print it out, then take a red ink pen and circle every instance of the words "I," "my," "our," "we," or the name of your organization.
Now, circle all the times you used "you" and "your." Ideally, use twice as many "you" "your" words as "we" words.
Here is an example:
This appeal has very few "you" words. If your appeal looks like this one, go back and re-write it and make sure the donor is at the center!
Why does this matter? Have you ever been engaged in a conversation with someone who can only talk about himself? You politely begin the conversation, but as they continuously focus on themselves, you find yourself looking over their shoulder for a way out of the conversation.
This is how donors feel when you send a letter that focuses on your organization, a letter filled with statements like:
"This year we fed..."
"We are changing the world..."
"We saved dozens of acres of rain forest."
"Our efforts resulted in..."
"Because we stepped forward..."
With some finesse, you can find a way to duck out of the conversation at a cocktail party. Your donors have it much easier–a quick glance at your appeal and they quickly file it away in the garbage!
Ideally, your appeal should use twice as many "you" words as "we" words.
Why does this matter? One of my favorite blogs, Bloomerang, says it like this:
"You" and its variations (you'd, you'll, you're, your, yours, yourself, and you've) are like flytraps for your readers, calling out to them and making them pay attention to what you're saying. Using "you" words also keeps your writing oriented toward giving the donor the credit for the good things they've helped make possible, which makes them feel good. And donors who feel good about giving to you will keep giving to you.