When your supporters receive your fundraising appeals, are you conveying the best message you can? Or are you confusing would-be donors with jargon? Is your appeal asking donors to help your bottom line?
The best appeals work by motivating your donors and encouraging them to give. But when the wrong person writes your appeals, you could be making a poor fundraising ask. So, who should write your fundraising appeals?
Your CEO should not write your fundraising appeals
Neither your CEO nor other members of your executive team should be writing your fundraising appeals because they’ll likely focus on the wrong things when making an appeal. Executives may worry too much about the nonprofit’s bottom line to be effective storytellers. Their asks tend to focus on the financial side of the appeals.
I know I’m not motivated by requests to reach a nonprofit’s budgeted fundraising goal. These asks are some of the least likely to motivate donors to give! If your appeals have been focusing on reaching your fiscal year-end goals, try a different approach using these helpful suggestions.
Also, unless you have a very hands-on executive team, they may lack the knowledge and time to personalize appeals and pull effective donor lists. No one wants to receive a letter with a salutation like “Dear Friend” or “Dear Donor,” so you need an appeal writer with the skills to tailor your appeals to your individual donors.
Neither should your board
Your board members are also not likely a good choice to write your fundraising appeals. Your board members keep your nonprofit on the right track and in the black financially, but they’re typically not natural fundraisers. If you have a board that’s reluctant to fundraise, it’s likely because they’re either too busy or lack fundraising knowledge. Typically, nonprofits select board members for their business skills, not their fundraising ability.
While it’s not impossible to get your board fundraising, writing appeals requires a specific set of skills your business-minded board likely doesn’t have. While your board likely has connections that could make huge donations, they would need training on how to interpret your donor data. They’d also need writing skills and time to write your nonprofit’s appeals. Your board is composed of volunteers who either run their own businesses or are executives at other companies, so they’re unlikely to have the time to write the appeals or receive special training on your nonprofit’s CRM. Even if your board does have that kind of time (and willingness) to write an appeal, they know what motivates your donors or, like your CEO, will they focus on just the nonprofit financials?
However, you should always remember your board has the organization’s best interest in mind. Sit down with them and ask them to share their stories. The unique perspective of your board members could prove to be very inspiring to your donors if used wisely!
Should you leave the appeals to your fundraising department?
Your fundraising team likely writes appeals that are personalized and motivating, and send appeals to segmented donor lists. They’re probably a good choice for writing your appeals. Fundraisers understand how to craft a good ask that tells a story and makes an emotional appeal that focuses on the mission or the results of specific programs. Your fundraising department also knows most of your donors better than your executive team and board members.
However, your fundraising team might not be the absolute best choice because they’re only armed with secondhand accounts of impactful stories.
Wait. Then who should write our fundraising appeals?
If your nonprofit helps people, ask them to share their story. Your beneficiaries are likely the best person to ask donors to support you. Those who benefit from your nonprofit’s work know the importance of supporting you. Even if these beneficiaries aren’t writers, their firsthand experience will motivate your supporters to give. Pair your beneficiary with the appeal writer from your fundraising team. The appeal writer can polish the story so that it reads well without losing the beneficiary’s voice.
Boost the story’s power, by pairing the letter to the best recipients and personalize the appeal. If your beneficiary is willing, include their picture and have them sign their name at the end of the appeal. You’ll show your donors a perspective they don’t see enough of: a look at your charity through the eyes of a beneficiary.
If your organization helps those who can’t speak for themselves, consider writing an appeal with a volunteer. Volunteers work with those you serve every day. They have their own firsthand experiences to share. Those stories can be just as powerful as one told by a beneficiary of your nonprofit.
Too often, we tell stories about hypothetical beneficiaries or secondhand accounts the fundraising team hears from fellow employees. Many fundraising appeals focus on year-end fundraising goals – this is even worse! A factual, firsthand account of your nonprofit’s impact shows your donors what they support. Your donors should also see the gratitude of someone they’ve helped by donating.