donation appeal messaging

How many times can you ask the same supporters for help? Well the answer might come down to the specifics of how we frame donation appeal messaging. If we ask the same question ten times or use a vague call to action no different to the last, we risk sounding repetitive and unimaginative.

When it comes to the art of asking, multiple studies have proved these three tools to be effective for donation appeal messaging.

  • Give a direction rather than a question.
  • Set clearly defined perimeters.
  • Then for continuing interactions, change these parameters with each return point of contact.

1. Replace the question with an affirmative call to action

  • Instead of asking: Can you donate?
  • Try: Donate $40 today to keep the treatment center open!
  • Instead of: Can you help our team set up the show?
  • Try: Come set up the show on Saturday and make a difference as a member of the team! 
  • Instead of: Will you sponsor a table at the Gala and support our event?
  • Try: Sponsor your own table today! Make the fundraising gala one to remember!

2. Clearly define parameters

Think of it like taking a photo. How can we make out what we are looking at if it’s blurred and unfocused? This is similar to a vague command like telling a kid to: Clean up the toys! They probably won’t know where to start. However when we say, ‘Please put your avengers in the blue box and back under the bed!’ then the chances increase that something might actually happen!

For example try removing vagueness and replace it with specifics:

  • Instead of: Will you donate to our fundraiser!
  • Try: Donate $50 today to help hit our $10,000 target!
  • Instead of: Can you call us? Have a look where you can help then get in touch.
  • TryCall today and make an appointment to come by for a coffee. 
  • Instead of: Support our new winter fundraiser!
  • Try: Donate $50 today to help open the new food bank before the start of winter.

The amount of money or time that is requested is set so clearly that the reader gets to make a definitive decision then and there.

If the reader doesn’t make a clear cut decision quickly, the email or letter gets put in the ‘comeback to later box‘ and is likely lost afterwards.

The easier it is for our nonprofit supporters to make clear decisions, the higher the positive hit rate and the likelihood of engagement.

3. Vary parameters for subsequent donation appeals

Setting parameters gets results and variation is how we keep each new donation appeal fresh and non-repetitive. 

Keep each subsequent interaction new by making those ‘asks’ seem as individual as possible. 

  • Change the donation amount requested.
  • Change the text regularly. 
  • Keep fresh imagery accompanying your literature. 
  • Include personal knowledge.

Whatever the parameters are, keep them changing. Keep the request tuned ever so slightly differently in tone to the last. It doesn’t have to be a huge change every time.

Direct calls to action, parameter setting and variation of those parameters are great tools, especially when your job involves regularly reaching out to the public. They prove to be subtle but effective ways to get results, whether communicating with your base or your board!

annual fundraising appeal

Nick Wood

Nick Wood

Freelance Journalist & Author
Nick Wood is a writer and publisher in the nonprofit sector, with over a decade of experience working in Charity industry expansion in the UK and further afield. He is the creator of the Light-on-light project which showcases the stories of individuals who have made a positive impact on the world, and is frequently published in print, online, TV and Radio. You can contact Nick at [email protected]