A Plea for Help


At its simplest, an appeal letter or e-appeal is a plea for help.

And to be most successful, an appeal needs two things:

  1. A problem.  This is the reason for the plea.
  2. A solution to that problem that the donor can provide with their gift.

Do your appeals get this right?

For instance, many organizations send appeals that primarily ask donors to “‘support our organization.”

But asking donors to “support our organization” doesn’t raise as much money as asking donor to “solve a problem with your gift.”


Because when an organization asks for “support,” they end up trying to prove that they are worthy of that support.  So those appeals spend a meaningful part of their letter or email telling the donor that the organization is effective, and sharing a story of a person who has already been helped.

But that approach reduces engagement and money raised. 

Think of it this way: in the Emergency Room, when someone’s life is on the line and help is needed “STAT,” do the nurses first share about people they’ve helped in the past?  No.  They yell for exactly what they need.

When a ship at sea is sinking and they sent out an SOS message, do they also include stories of all the successful voyages they’ve made before?  No.  They send their location and they plead for help.

A plea for “support” simply isn’t as strong – and doesn’t get as good results – as a plea for help.


Steven Screen is Co-Founder of The Better Fundraising Company and lead author of its blog. With over 25 years' fundraising experience, he gets energized by helping organizations understand how they can raise more money. He’s a second-generation fundraiser, a past winner of the Direct Mail Package of the Year, and data-driven.

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