By: Stephanie Nivinskus
If you’re like many non-profits, fourth quarter is when you ramp up your fundraising campaigns. After all, Giving Tuesday, the biggest donation day of the year for many organizations, is right around the corner (November 28th, to be exact.) Knowing this, and the fact that more than 30% of annual giving usually occurs in the month of December, there’s no time like the present to prepare your most irresistible fundraising campaign yet.
The problem? You may be planning to do fundraising as usual. And because of that, you may miss out on millions of potential donor dollars. Don’t get me wrong—the donors will still give; they just won’t give to you.
Sorry to be so blunt; however, sometimes the most helpful thing we can do is tell the truth.
Let’s face it, donors are being hit up by a million different organizations this time of year. I get letters every single day from someone asking me for money for something. And the fact is, it all starts to blend together after a while. If you want to get – and keep – your donors’ attention, you have to do fundraising differently.
The standard letter that talks about your organization, your need for money, etc., is going to fall flat with most of your readers. If you really want to make an impact, you need to talk a lot less about you, and a lot more about them. The best way to do this is through storytelling.
90% of purchases are based on emotions. While donating isn’t technically a purchase, it does still involve a financial transaction. Donors are taking hard-earned money from their bank account, and putting it into yours. By tugging at the right emotions, you’ll make people much more open to, and even excited about giving money to your organization.
Here’s a formula for writing a year-end fundraising campaign letter that will make people eager to support your cause:
Step 1. Share a compelling story.
Source several stories of people you’ve helped in the past as a result of your fundraising campaigns. Find one or two stories that have an exceptional emotional value. You know the ones—they stop listeners in their tracks when they hear them. They make complete strangers cry. They make all of us realize that today, actually this very moment matters. Because in just seconds, your entire world can change.
Your stories need to be written in a way that invites your potential donors to momentarily step into the shoes of the suffering. They need to feel their pain. Their fear. Their sorrow. And then, they need to experience the shift. The moment donor dollars are received and used to open doors that were previously inaccessible. The doors that change lives for the better. Much, much better.
When creating these stories, vulnerability is key. You need to explain what life looks like without donor support. Be real. Be raw. The human psyche can’t help but respond to that.
Step 2. Tie the story of those who are suffering into the potential donor’s story.
The supporters of your organization have the opportunity to truly make a difference by joining your mission…to take ownership of the outcome…and to recognize how blessed they are not to be suffering like some people are. Remind them of this. Paint a picture that shows them, it’s only by God’s grace that they’re not suffering like many of those you help. You could say something like: “After reading this story, we trust you, our valued supporters, understand how fortunate you are to not be struggling like ____ (the name of the person in the story.)
Step 3. Give your donors a community.
Remind your supporters of the opportunity they have to belong to something greater than themselves. Everyone wants to belong to something. In fact, according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (seen the diagram above), the sense of belonging is second to the most basic needs we have as humans—food, oxygen, etc. Take advantage of the opportunity to remind them that by joining hands with your organization, they will meet that need. Remind them that by continuing to support your mission, they are tied into a larger community and that together, you’re creating a legacy that will last far beyond their lifetime.
Step 4. Give them easy ways to contribute.
Don’t limit your giving options to just asking for cash. Invite your donors to purchase products or memorabilia, to go to events, etc. Get creative. While some donors prefer to just cut a check, don’t assume everyone does. Instead, provide opportunities for them to play active roles in your organization.
Step 5. Remind them their contributions are tax-exempt.
One line will suffice, there’s no need for more details—as your donors should already know this. It’s just nice to throw in the reminder.
Step 6. Restate the facts.
Finish your letter by restating why their contributions matter so much and inviting them to support the cause. You could say something like “Hundreds of homeless men, women, and children in our city depend on the daily meals we provide with your support (substitute homeless people for whatever your organization supports). We hope you’ll join us as we continue meeting the vast needs right here in our own community and beyond.”
As you write your year-end fundraising letter, keep in mind, your supporters already know what your organization does. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be on your list. Take the focus off of your organization. Instead, showcase the people you’re helping and the donors that are making that possible. Simply put, that’s what makes people want to give more.