When it comes to writing compelling fundraising letters or fundraising emails, making a connection with the audience is essential. You want the audience (aka donors and potential donors) to know, like, and trust your non-profit enough to donate. What you write in a letter or email will have to do the heavy lifting for you. The good news is that fundraising writing is not rocket science! There are easy, proven ways to connect with your audience and hook them to read the rest of your appeal.
Why Audience Connection Matters
With every fundraising letter or email your non-profit sends, you only have a few seconds to capture the reader’s attention. Those critical few seconds happen through things like your envelope copy, subject line, and the first sentence of the email or letter. In my opinion, the first sentence is imperative.
We want someone to read that first sentence and immediately grab their attention. The best stories and appeals connect with the audience from the outset. Within the first few sentences or seconds of telling the story, our audience feels a pull into our story. That’s why in the story structure that I teach my students, I emphasize connection as the first part of the structure.
Connecting with your audience means taking what you know about them and weaving it into the story. It should compellingly answer the question – “So what?” You want them to see how this information is applicable and relevant to them. Doing audience research can help you pinpoint how to best make this connection with your audience.
6 Ways to Make a Connection With Your Audience
Think about the most compelling and interesting stories you’ve read. What made them so intriguing to you? Chances are, they used one of the following devices to captivate the audience.
- Ownership - A sense of ownership gives the audience a feeling of having skin in the game. Ensure your audience is an active part of the story.
- Mystery - Use the element of mystery to connect with your audience, and you will leave them wanting to know more. One way to do this is to make a surprising statement or ask a question.
- Familiarity - Creating a connection with someone through a familiar element makes the interaction feel personable. As we’ve explored, one of our challenges in non-profit communications is our organizational voice. We don’t want it to feel distant or cold. Aiming for a tone of friendliness and familiarity is a good goal. When we achieve this goal, it creates a strong connection with our audience.
- Humanity - Stories are full of humanity; we must employ humanity from the outset to forge a connection with our audience. Humanity can take many forms, but the common thread is vulnerability. By being vulnerable about an experience and letting our guard down, we allow others to see our humanity.
- Contrast - Similar to mystery, contrast allows us to surprise and intrigue our audience. We want audience interest piqued and to consider an idea/person/object in a new way.
- Urgency - The essence of all successful fundraising is urgency. Without a sense of urgency, most of our appeals would fall flat. We need to give people compelling reasons to be invested in what we’re able to tell them. We can effectively accomplish this by showing them what is at stake and adding an element of urgency.
No matter which of these devices you use at the beginning of the story or other communication, remember it’s not enough to use the device on its own. We need to strategically pair the tactic with what we know about our audience to make that connection. A more formal way to accomplish this is by using an audience persona or audience profile.
Write better fundraising stories using these 6 ways to make a connection with your audience