I’m a collector. I collect red and white kitchen memorabilia, flour sifters, vintage tablecloths and… fundraising appeals.
I also tell my clients to become collectors (but just of the last item on my list!). I ask them to collect only appeals that demand their attention and cause them to give. After all, isn’t that the true measure of a fundraising appeal’s effectiveness?
I encourage them to ask everyone in their organization (other staff, board members, volunteers) to share winning appeals with them. Then I ask them to share the successful appeals with their team and endeavor to tease out what it is about these appeals the recipients find so irresistible.
Figure out what works; then copy it! After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
This is a great exercise for you and your team. And the end of the calendar year is a great time to begin collecting. Whatever appeals you receive this month in the mail, save the good ones. They may help you write a more compelling end-of-year appeal next month. If your appeal is already written and printed, use some of the good ideas you collect to tweak your email appeals. And, of course, use what you learn throughout the entire coming year.
In today’s post I’m going to suggest one of the central tenets common to the most successful fundraising appeals. When you read this it may seem obvious. But…are you doing it?
Does the Appeal Give a Reason?
Why do Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion go to see the Wizard?
Because, because, because, because, because! Because of the wonderful things he does!
Why do kids do as they’re told?
Because Mom or Dad says: “Because I said so!”
Is “because” a reason to give? Absolutely!
Those of you who read my blog regularly know I’m a huge fan of Robert Cialdini, author of the book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. In it, he outlines a number of principles of influence that affect human behaviors. One of the most interesting studies he describes is one by Harvard in which participants were asked to try to cut in line to make copies at a copier. Other people were already in line, but no matter.
First the participant asked politely: “Excuse me. I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine?” 60% of people allowed them to cut the line.
Then the participant said: “Excuse me. I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush?” Would you believe 94% of people let them go first?
It doesn’t even matter if the excuse makes little sense. Because guess what happened when the participant tried to cut in line by asking, “Excuse me. I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make copies?” Still, 93% of people agreed.
How to Add a Simple, Powerful Reason to Give
As a trigger for acquiescence, the word “because” increases the success rate by over 30%.
Personally, I find this freaking amazing.
I thought my Mom was crazy when she said “because I said so” to me. Who knew there was method to her madness?!
What a gift this is to you when crafting your nonprofit fundraising appeal!
And it requires very little of you besides a simple tweak to your current prose. Let’s see how this might be applied to different messaging situations.
“Because” in Your Appeal Letter
Take a look at your current direct mail appeal.
Let’s say you begin with:
“Today I’m sharing Amelia’s story with you.”
How might you tweak this to make it more compelling?
“Today I’m sharing Amelia’s story with you because she needs your help.”
More gripping, right?
And you can make it even more powerful by describing the kind of help she needs, suggesting a simple solution which the donor can provide. Not a lengthy description or litany of problems and potential services. Just something simple like:
- Because she is hungry.
- Because she needs a home.
- Because she can’t read.
- Because she can’t afford this needed surgery.
“Because” in Your Response Device
Take a look at your reply card or remit envelope. Let’s say it goes like this:
“Yes, I want to give.”
How could you tweak it?
“Yes, I want to give because children need me.”
More compelling, right?
You might also make it more powerful by including a few details. For example:
- Yes, I want to give the gift of food because 1 in 4 children are hungry.
- Yes, I want to give the gift of shelter because children are living on the streets.
- Yes, I want to give the gift of literacy because 1 in 4 children in the U.S. grow up not learning to read.
- Yes, I want to give the gift of life-saving surgery because 25% of Americans can’t afford this on their own.
In this way, your response device becomes a mini appeal on its own. If people throw away your letter, but save the remit to address later when they consider all their philanthropy, you’ll be putting your best foot forward.
“Because” in Your Email Appeal
Let’s say your e-appeal “ask” goes as follows:
“Please consider a gift of $500.”
How could you tweak it?
“Please consider a gift of $500 because children need your help.”
More persuasive, right?
You might make it more persuasive still, using the simple suggestions offered for a printed letter.
- Because children are hungry.
- Because orphaned children need your support.
- Because only 1 in 3 children read at grade level.
- Because this surgery can save a life.
“Because” in Your Donation Landing Page
Let’s say when folks click on your “Donate” button they’re taken to a page that says:
“Provide a meal to a starving child.”
That sounds pretty good, but how might you tweak it?
“Provide a meal because children are starving.”
This might not seem it should make a difference. But according to Cialdini’s research, it does.
Help People Say “Yes” Without Thinking
“Because” is one of the persuasion principles that help explain the psychology of why people say “yes” without thinking.
This one little word acts as a decision-making shortcut.
Daniel Kahneman, an Israeli psychologist who went on to win the Nobel prize in economic science in 2002, pioneered the field of behavioral economics. In his groundbreaking book “Thinking Fast and Slow,” covering decades of research in human decision making, he writes at length about these shortcuts.
Humans generally make decisions quickly, acting from intuition before logic.
The word “because” triggers something primal. Sure, you can get a yes without using this little tip. You can get people to think and consider your appeal logically and still make a contribution. And it’s tempting to tell yourself: “This appeal worked last year, so why mess with success?”
Everything depends on your definition of success. Just because an appeal raised money for you in the past does not mean it couldn’t raise more money for you in the future.
Successful appeal writing is both art and science. Don’t leave the science part out of the equation!
If you can boost your success rate by 30%, wouldn’t that be a very smart thing to do?
You’ve still got time to do some tweaking before the end of the year. Let me know if you do it, and how it works out for you. Happy fundraising!
Get More Year-End Tweaks
Get the most out of this year’s holiday giving season using my Year-End Fundraising To-Do’s and Checklists. It’s a “Cheat Sheet” to make sure you’ve got all your ducks nicely lined up and you’re not missing a few tweaks that could mean a big difference in your results. If you check off everything on the lists included in this guide, you’ll raise more money.
If you still need to write your appeal, check out my Anatomy of a Fundraising Appeal Letter + Sample Template. It’s a simple, incredibly thorough, 62-page step-by-step guide to crafting a killer appeal letter or email appeal. If you speak straight to the heart – and to your donor’s passions — you’ll raise more money.
All Clairification materials come with a 30-day, no-questions-asked, 100% refund guarantee. If you’re not happy, I’m not happy.
Image courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.com