How to Write an Effective Donor Appeal

Writing effective donor appeals begins with understanding how to speak to your donor base and knowing what matters to them. These practices can be applied to appeal letters, email campaigns, other donor-facing marketing materials, and even in face-to-face conversations with donors.

Center it around your donors

The number one way to write an effective donor appeal is to tell them how they are going to change lives by giving – not how your organization is going to act after they donate. Avoid words like “us” and “we,” and instead focus on “you” verbiage. Remember the power of one. Talk to just one person when writing your appeal, and it will feel so much more personal to the donors who are reading it. Stray away from organization-centered verbiage and show your donors how they make the difference.

Here’s an example of an organization-centered statement:

“Your gift will help us change and save lives.”

Here’s the same statement, but donor-centered:

Your gift will change and save lives.”

Write from an emotional place

When donors make the decision to give, it isn’t always a logic-centered choice. It’s made because they feel the need to do so. It’s an emotional decision, and so an effective donor appeal – whether through the mail, over email, or through another medium – should evoke an emotional response.

Tell a story

Stories are the most powerful tools you can use to connect with your donors. Client testimonials turn facts and figures into real, relatable stories that donors could imagine being the case for their own sisters, daughters, and friends. Think about the clients that have impacted you in the past and tell those stories. If you are concerned about confidentiality, you can tell stories from your perspective, from the perspectives of your volunteers, or simply ask for permission from those whose stories you’d like to share.

Keep it simple

Big words, acronyms, too many words, and medical or technical language can all be burdensome to your donors as they read your appeals. Keep your language easy to understand so your donors can easily digest your big ask. When creating print materials, ensure the font size is large enough for all age groups to read.

Make the first sentence an attention-grabber

Draw your donors in from the very first sentence. It should be strong and captivating. Consider the following examples:

“This is the most difficult thing I’ve written in my 12 years as a center director.”

“Hannah called us from the side of road, halfway between her house and an abortion clinic.”

“I was in my office when I felt the overwhelming urge to get on my knees and pray.”

Present the problem (and the solution)

Use your donor appeal to lay out the problem in your community. What are the top reasons women cite for having abortions? How many women in your area had abortions last year? This is the time to pull together the local and national statistics, but don’t leave it at that. Provide donors with a sense of hope by explaining what your center does to impact the community. Provide evidence by stating the number of women your center served last year and the number of babies that were born as a result of your center’s influence. Remember to tie it back to the donor – their donations saved lives.

Create urgency

Do you have a matching campaign going on? Is this for a year-end campaign? Create a sense of urgency in your appeal by stating a deadline and explain why they should give by then. Without urgency, donors will feel like they can give at any point, and they’ll put it off.

Be specific

What’s your goal? Are you attempting to raise $20,000 for an ultrasound machine, or are you in the midst of a capital campaign to move to a different location? If you’re not working toward something specific, break down your operating costs and give a donor an idea of what their gift will be used for. For example, a $100 gift provides a one-hour options counseling session, or $50 will cover five pregnancy tests. This helps donors visualize and feel part of your work when they give.

Draw it back to your essential mission

Don’t forget to bring it all back to the ultimate goal of drawing more women and families into the message and saving grace of Christ’s love. Include how donors can pray for your center and the women you serve, or a testimony from one of your clients in your donor appeal.

Formatting matters

Once your content is written, lay it out so it’s easy to read. Make sure you have headers and subheads, and display statistics with graphics or as bullet points. Incorporate elements of design to help break up the blocks of text. Before you print out several hundred, pass out the proofs to some friends or family members who haven’t seen it before and take their feedback. Make any additional tweaks before the final print.

An effective donor appeal can make all the difference in reaching your center’s fundraising goal. If you’re interested in a professionally written and designed donor appeal letter or email campaign, the experts at Choose Life Marketing can help.

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