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Four Questions to Answer in Every Appeal

Reprinted from

To grow your donor base and total donations you need to have an appropriate "Call to Action" in every appeal. The problem is that many nonprofit campaigns lack that. Hence the problem of the "Call to Inaction."

It's great to state who you are and what you do, but if you never clearly ask for money and never appeal to potential donors correctly, your results won't amount to much. To do that you need to answer the following four questions every time you ask:

Why Me?

Your audience needs to care about what you are doing. Show them why what you're doing is personally relevant to them. They need to connect to you on a human level. Use pictures, tell stories, and do anything that can help your audience relate.

If your writing tends to be more like an academic argument than a true-life story aimed at touching the heart, it's time to break out of your old habits and put the heart and soul of your work back into every word you write.

Why Now?

Most people donate online on two occasions. The first is toward the end of the year; people are in charitable mindsets and looking to make year-end tax contributions. The other is when there's a humanitarian crisis such as the earthquake in Haiti. What do you do the rest of the year?

  • Create a sense of urgency and immediacy in your appeal. Explain why a donation is needed right now.
  • Break down what you are currently doing and show any immediately understandable or visible results that will make people want to take action.

What For?

People know you're a nonprofit organization and you need donations to help your cause. But where exactly is a donor's money going? What will they get in return for their donation—personally and in terms of your programs?

  • Don't just focus on need; focus on specifically explaining the impact a donation will make.
  • Show them that you will take care of their money so a potential donor knows it won't be wasted or inefficiently used.
  • Clearly show which programs are being helped by a donation or what goods are going to result.
  • Share human interest stories and success stories. Share how other donors made an impact or how donors impacted other individuals in need. Avoid talking about massive numbers, mind-numbing statistics, or intangible outcomes.

There is plenty of research on why this is ineffective in conveying impact and motivating giving, and it's laid out in Network for Good's eBook, Homer Simpson for Nonprofits: How People Really Think and What It Means to Your Cause.

Who Says?

The messenger is often as important as the message.

People tend to do what other people are doing. Tap into that by using trustworthy messengers—people you've actually helped or other donors instead of just you. People say friends and family are the most influential in determining where they give money, so also think about how you can get your supporters to speak for you among their own circles of influence.

Katya Andresen and Julie Stofer, October 2010
© 2010, Network for Good. Reprinted from; reprinted with permission.

Katya Andresen is the chief operating officer and Julie Stofer is the nonprofit marketing manager at Network for Good, an independent nonprofit organization that helps nonprofits raise funds for their missions through simple, affordable, and effective online fundraising services, including donation processing and e-mail outreach tools. To foster continued growth in online giving, Network for Good also provides free training to nonprofits on online outreach through the site and a free newsletter with online fundraising and nonprofit marketing tips delivered right to your inbox every week.

Topics: Fundraising