I’m offering a new feature of “Do’s vs. Don’ts.” I’ll run it occasionally, as ‘teaching opportunities’ arise. Please let me know if you find it useful!
Okay, let’s begin with today’s timely spring email example. Do you think it’s a “Do” or a “Don’t?”
What’s wrong/right with this picture? **
I’ll tell you my own thoughts in a moment. But first…
Think it through yourself because you’ll likely get more out of this if you do.
Seriously, I mean it. We learn best by doing.
Take five minutes and jot down your answers to the following questions on a piece of paper or your screen.
- What looks good about it?
- What looks not so good?
- Does it inspire you to give?
- If so, why?
- If not, why not?
Okay. Have you answered these five questions?
Before I share my own answers, I’d like to draw your attention to how it arrived in my Gmail inbox:
The headline was “Easter Renewal at SFDP-SF. Support Our Spring Campaign!”
So… now a few more questions.
Grab that pen or keyboard again.
- Would you open that email?
- If yes, why?
- If no, why?
Please take a moment to think this through. You’ll likely figure out a lot on your own. But… the few things you don’t think of, those will be the nuggets you’ll learn from!
Okay. Ready to know my answers?
1. What looks good about it?
It’s got a photo of a cute kid who looks as if he could be happier. As a prospective donor, I wonder if I might bring a smile to this little one’s face. Of course, that would inspire me and make me happy to donate.
It tells me exactly what I can give ($100) and exactly what it will buy (68 nutritious meals) and exactly who it will help (hungry people). So I can easily, and quickly, make a binary decision: “Yes, I’ll help” or “No, I won’t help.”
2. What looks not so good?
The headline is about the organization’s campaign, which is about internal process (your needs/desires) and not individual or communal impact (my needs/desires).
The photo could be more compelling and tug more on the heartstrings. The Mom looks pretty happy, neither of them look that poor or hungry and the portrait as a whole looks pretty relaxed rather than urgent. I’m not saying you need a photo showing an emaciated kid from a third world country who is clearly starving. But choose photos with care. And generally, if you add a brief caption that will strengthen your appeal.
3. Does it inspire you to give?
For me, the answer is no. See below.
4. If so, why?
The one thing that might inspire me is the clearly described problem and relevant solution. It’s a super simple call to action. I’m asked to make only one decision. The donate button is right there. And it seems easy. However…
5. If not, why not?
I’m really turned off by the headline. I don’t care about their campaign. PRO TIP: Never use the word “our” or “we” in an appeal. It’s not about you, your process or even your story. It’s about the donor, and the story the donor can tell if they join with you in your mission.
There’s not enough of a story here. Appeals can be brief yet still emotional. Add a little verbal color with some descriptive words that inspire me to help a family like this one. You know, something like “4-year-old Randy hasn’t eaten today and won’t until dinner. Unless you help.” After that, you can add the ‘ask’ copy: “Your gift of $100 will feed Randy and 67 other hungry kids a hot, nutritious breakfast.”
6. Would you open that email?
Not unless I already knew and loved the organization and immediately recognized what all those initials mean. Whatever you do, stay away from acronyms and jargon. They can be an immediate turn-off at worst, and confusing at best.
I’m also ticked off by being asking to support your ‘campaign.’ My bucket list might include helping hungry people, but it certainly doesn’t include filling your coffers or making you feel good because you met an internal fundraising goal.
7. If yes, why?
Again, I’d open it if I knew and loved you. I know them, but love is a stretch here. While this is titled “Easter Renewal,” I’m not sure if that means they think I’m a renewing donor or if they’re talking about something transformational that happens during this holiday. I’ve given to them in the past, but not for at least five years. Probably more. So I don’t fall into the “I love you” category of former donors.
I might also open it because I read in the preview pane that $100 would buy 68 meals. But that’s because (1) I happen to have my email inbox set up to display the preview pane (not everyone does), and (2) I read that far.
8. If no, why?
It doesn’t lead with a compelling, urgent, resonant problem I care about solving. Instead it leads with three “no-no’s): (1) confusing message (“Easter Renewal”), (2) unclear acronym and (3) exhortation to support their campaign.
Convey the donor’s awesomeness, not your own.
Lead from what I, the prospective donor, care about.
Think about this and reflect for a moment.
There’s a subtle, but BIG difference between:
- “We need to feed more children” and “Because of you, Randy and 67 more children will head off to school with full tummies.”
- “We endeavor to help domestic violence victims” and “Because of your big heart, Sherry and her baby will be able to escape an abusive situation before it’s too late.”
- “Our organization works to ensure cleaner rivers” and “Because of you, this polluted river will once again have safe and even drinkable water.”
- “Our organization exposes inner-city kids to the arts” and “Because you cared, Sam and his classmates will be transported by their first theatrical experience.”
What do you think? Am I off base? Please share in the comments below.
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**I’m not trying to shame anyone here. I just can’t always eliminate the identifying details and give you a fair representation of what the appeal looks like. As with almost anything you can think of, there’s good AND bad here. We often learn best from mistakes. Our own, and others. So if I ever use you as an example of a “don’t,” and you want to talk more, feel free to contact me directly. Just trying to help — and kudos to all who put things out there and make an effort!
as always, your clarity is stellar and helps us do our jobs better! thank you!
Excellent and very helpful reminder of choosing words carefully and remembering to always be donor centric.
This type of hands-on evaluation is priceless! Sent it to the whole dept. Thank you, and keep the Do’s and Don’t coming.