When writing fundraising appeals we’re often so focused on media, donor segment, communication channel, content, and offer that can we overlook the 6 essential architectural markers on which any effective appeal is built.
Regardless of media, technology, format or market segment, successful appeals usually hit the following 6 markers:
Get them in. Envelope teaser, banner head, email subject line…your donors will never respond if they never see your message to begin with. And to do that you have to get their attention.
Start them on their journey in the right direction. There is always a directional flow in great appeals, a clear starting line, heading to a clear finish line. Do your donors know where to start or are there competing elements in your appeal that are dividing their attention and perhaps sending them to an ask before your persuasive content is fully communicated? Pay attention to sequencing, order of insertion in direct mail and intermediate landing pages in digital as the donor journeys from the starting blocks to the finish line.
Your message must first resonate with need and urgency in their hearts. Whether an emotional story, an organizational history of success, or an offer that benefits the donors in some more self-serving way, your appeal must answer their implicit question: Why is your message emotionally important to me and why do I need to act now?
Once your appeal has resonated in the donors’ hearts, you must demonstrate in their heads the wisdom and impact of their investment. That’s because your donors’ last implicit question may be the hardest to answer: Why are you the best investment I can make to solve the problem you’re telling me about?
Tell them what you want them to do. Good sales professionals know that if you never ask, they’ll never buy. If you have led your donors through markers 1-4 effectively, you won’t lose them when it comes time to ask them to give. BUT you have tell them exactly what action you would like them to take. “Give $25.” “Vote for change.” “Volunteer your time.”
Don’t stop at the ask. Tell them how to respond. Take them to the finish line explicitly. “Return your completed enclosed membership reply in the enclosed return envelope.” “Simply click the donate button.” “Click here to tell Congress to say no to Arctic Drilling.” “Watch this video to see how you can become a volunteer.”
Finally, these architectural markers are so important that they all need reiteration, albeit in an abbreviated fashion, as your donor moves beyond your main messaging vehicle through the rest of your appeal, so here’s an extra marker:
In the letter close or P.S., in the insert if there is one, in the email sidebar, on all intermediate landing pages, and especially (in case nothing else is saved or bookmarked) on the response device or giving page. Try to capture all 6 markers in a sentence or two. “Your $50 gift today will enable our front line doctors to get critical medical supplies to Marah and children like her in villages in war-torn Syria. Simply [click/send/visit]….”
Keeping these 6 building blocks in front of you is also a great way to start the appeal writing process and lets you frame in your fundraising messaging from the outside in, before you actually get down to the details of your story, offer and ask. And it’s an important checklist to review before polishing and releasing your final draft.