We are a few days into October and now is the time when many fundraisers are starting to feel the crunch of year-end fundraising. While it is a great time of year to be asking for gifts, donors are getting a ton of requests for charities they currently support as well as ones that are trying to acquire them as a donor. This presents a problem for many non-profits – how can you ensure that your appeal stands out from the crowd?
My short answer to this is to tell a compelling story.
Facts, statistics, and general information are not memorable or interesting enough when you are building a case for support. There needs to be a narrative behind it that engages donors and gives them compelling reasons to donate. This story could be a story about an individual or it could be your theory of change story. Choose a story and a positioning that will resonate with your audience.
There are many opportunities to share that story and the best year-end campaigns will take a multi-channel approach to storytelling and fundraising. This means that they will make asks and share stories across multiple channels such as direct mail, email, and more.
As you continue thinking about how to put together your year-end appeal or campaign, here are a few great opportunities to consider.
This is a classic fundraising choice that many non-profits use that gets good results. If you have been using direct mail for several years, your donors are used to giving that way and it is good to maintain consistency. On the other hand, if your organization has success with other fundraising channels and you have not tried direct mail, there will be high acquisition costs to consider.
Stories bring an element of humanity into the copy. They move you from talking about high-level pieces of your work (ie – you’re fighting poverty) to a micro-level (ie – Joan was able to get back on her feet because for abc reason).
When you are telling a story in a direct mail piece, here are a few things to consider:
- When possible, use pictures or graphics to complement the story and bring it to life.
- In an appeal, the story structure (connection, character, conflict, resolution, ask) is repeated multiple times. This creates momentum in the piece allows you to keep building a stronger story as you go.
- How you tell the story will depend on your word count. Choose details that your audience will care about.
Email is the cornerstone of online fundraising. Like direct mail, it is a direct response mechanism that will get people to a landing page. Unlike direct mail though, email is a much shorter format that often targets a different demographic. There are lots of great email platforms that you can use. I personally use MailChimp and love it.
Telling a story in email is also a great way to engage your donors. Here are some things to consider when telling a story in an email:
- You have to get to the point fast. Make sure your first sentence and paragraph are captivating and give people reasons to keep reading.
- Make sure it is easy to skim. That means short sentences and short paragraphs.
- Use that valuable header real estate for something other than your organization’s logo. Some of my favorite emails as of late have been using a graphic that includes a call to action in this space.
There will likely be an uptick in your website traffic during the month of December. Additionally, this is also where your online donors will be going to make their gifts. This means your website needs to be up to spec. If possible, make sure that your giving pages match your appeals in terms of the look and feel, the story, and the ask. You may also want to consider these changes and more for your homepage.
Read more of my tips for using stories on non-profit websites here.
Lots of organizations are participating in #GivingTuesday, which is great. But your call to action on that day cannot be, “Give because it’s #GivingTuesday.” It really has to be rooted in impact and story.
Check out more of my tips for #GivingTuesday here.
Thank You Letters
This last suggestion isn’t an appeal, but I do want to say that it is part of the donor experience during year-end giving. To that end, cohesion is something to consider. Ideally, you want to remind donors of their impact and tie that into the story that you told them.
Here are my tips for telling a story in a thank you letter.
What other ways will you be telling stories during year-end appeals? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.