Keep Your Donation Appeal Fresh with Effective Language

Just as in the business world, a non-profit’s appeal messaging to their donors requires ongoing updates to keep communication engaging enough to motivate donors to act.

Predictable, rehashed appeals fail to grab attention and will often fall on the proverbial “deaf” ear if it’s too similar to pitches they’ve seen before.

Lucky for us, the English language is armed with a toolbox bursting with words and phrases to help you craft a compelling message. Look towards persuasive, not aggressive, words to add to your marketing messages and they will stick in the hearts and minds of your community long after it has landed in their inboxes. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Opening with a Bang

Make it your goal to grab your audience’s attention in the first few words of your message. This is a common tactic used in for-profit marketing departments to create a sense of missing out on an opportunity or a chance to participate, and it motivates the exact same way when incorporated into a non-profit’s messaging.

This type of opening is best used when you are promoting a campaign with a specific deadline. Create urgency using words like “act now” or “instantly” if appropriate. Wonderful examples are found in #GivingTuesday campaigns, where donors have only 24-hours to contribute.

Another instance where this approach can be highly effective is in cases where a chronic, immediate problem presents itself, such as a natural disaster. Using phrases like “we can’t do it without you” offers a softer approach that speaks to a sense of the responsibility shared by your greater community. Combining the message with images that provide evidence of the need makes an incredibly compelling call for donations.

Bringing in the Audience

We all understand the value of establishing a strong connection with your donors, and there is no better way to do that than by making them a prominent player in your messaging. By speaking directly to your audience you expose the importance of their participation in your cause. Using words and phrases such as “listeners like you” or “our community” automatically includes them in the success of your organization.

Corporate sponsors respond particularly well to this approach, as it draws a distinctive line between their products or services (as represented by their community) to a consumer’s sense of self.

The Glitter That Makes Your Message Sparkle

Liven up your message with a compelling quote or personal story that puts the donor in the shoes of your constituents. While this is already a commonly used tactic in non-profit fundraising, it bears repeating because it’s one of the most effective ways to garner attention. But, in order for this approach to hit the right mark attention must be paid to your choice in words and phrases.

It’s easy to get caught up in the passion of your cause when you are attempting to tell the stories of your organization. A message that is heavy with strong adjectives and adverbs, however, could overwhelm your donors. Be cautious when choosing quotes and crafting personal stories so as to not turn off donors with pleas that seems to tear excessively at their emotions. If you stray to far from the safe zone you may find you turn more people away than you draw in. Make sure to also steer clear of jargon that might add a note of exclusion to your message.
Writing For Non-Profits

Inviting Donors to Join the Movement

Everyone wants to be a part of something big, and that’s exactly why he or she has chosen to support your organization but, without an inviting offer, your message can just become one more solicitation for money. Using an invitational approach softens the request and conveys a sense of power to the donor that gives them the space to make their own choice to give.

Using enticing adverbs is the way to extend an invitation to join your mission. Choosing ones that accurately depict the urgency depends on how “hot” or “warm” those words are. For instance, an invitation that begins “we need your help” signifies a desperate need for donors, whereas a “call for your participation” denotes a far less pressing need.

Keeping it Short and Sweet

At the end of the day your message always needs to include what professional journalists call the “who, what, where, when, why and how” information that enables donors to participate in the campaign. Don’t wait too long to get to the point, include all the details they need and don’t veer off the main goal of your campaign.

For fundraising events it’s acceptable to fashion the message as a traditional invitation in an email or posted mail. Depending on the formality of the event, you can send the invitation in an envelope, or on a printed postcard with images that are sure to gain attention.

Creating a message that initiates action from your donors is a craft that can either be very effective or ineffective for far too long after the initial communication. Choosing appropriate language and applying it with thoughtful consideration can greatly increase your chances in garnering participation in your cause, now and in the future, too.


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