How and Why to Give Your Donors a Reason to Give Today

Brain and Heart.

This is the sixth post in a series designed to help you create powerful fundraising offers.

And for a refresher, here’s my definition of an offer: the main thing that you say will happen when the person gives a gift.

The Four Main Ingredients

The most successful fundraising offers tend to have 4 elements:

  1. A solvable problem that’s easy to understand
  2. A solution to that problem that’s easy to understand
  3. The cost of the solution seems like a good deal
  4. There’s urgency to solve the problem NOW

Today, we’re going to break down element #4, “there’s urgency to solve the problem NOW.”

There’s Urgency to Solve the Problem NOW

There are two main ideas here…

There’s urgency

I cannot emphasize this enough: the more urgently your donor’s gift is needed, the more likely you are to receive a gift.

And let’s take care of an objection to this right off the bat. Immediately upon reading the previous paragraph, some people will say that using urgency too often will wear out donors, cause donor fatigue, and your donors will stop giving to you.

They will not test this approach. They will simply “know” that always using urgency will drive donors away.

This is not true.

Remember, your donors do not open every piece of mail. They open 3 out of 10 emails (if you’re good). So a pattern that seems to you like never-ending urgency can seem to donors like you’re asking for an appropriate amount of help – help that is needed for the important cause you’re working on.

The success of my career is due largely to knowing that mass-donor fundraising can be more urgent, more often than people think. And it will have almost zero negative consequences. (Because of course you’ll get a complaint or two – but when you compare those one or two complaints against the hundreds of gifts you receive, the complaints feel like a small hurdle.)

So let’s agree that urgency works. Here’s what you want to do…

Solve the Problem NOW

Here’s what you want to do: every email, letter, newsletter and event should give people multiple reasons to give a gift today.

You want to create urgency in any fundraising piece by highlighting reasons your donor should give a gift today. Here’s a brief list of reasons you can use in your own fundraising:

  1. A deadline. This can be a real deadline (“Our fiscal year ends June 30th”) or an artificial deadline (“Please send your gift by the first day of school”) – they both work like crazy.
  2. What will happen if your organization doesn’t do its work. This is making clear what will happen to your beneficiaries or cause if your organization is not able to help; “If we don’t help the middle-schooler learn to read, she’ll enter high-school at a massive disadvantage” and “If we don’t cure this person in time, they will lose their eyesight” and “If this program is not funded, children in our town will have nowhere to learn about the Arts.”

    a. Many organizations don’t like to share this information. But it’s a fact! It’s the reason your organization exists! In my view, those organizations are hiding the truth from their donors. They aren’t treating their donors like adults. Trust me; your donors can handle it. And sharing what could happen if your organization doesn’t help reminds donors what’s at stake – it reminds donors why they gave a gift in the first place.

  3. Social Proof. If you can show donors that “people like them are making donations like this” you will raise more money. Here’s a phrase that has helped our smaller clients have a lot of success: “[DonorName], compassionate people all over [LocalArea] are pitching in to help [Beneficiaries/Cause] – please do your part today by sending in a gift!”

Remember: LOTS of charities are asking your donors for gifts. Most of them are using the, “Hey, we’re helping a lot of people, would you partner with us?” approach. And that will cause some gifts to come in. But if you really want to stand out in your donors’ mailbox and inbox, you need to give her reasons to give a gift to you today.

You do that well, and you’ll get more gifts.

Next Up…

The next post will show you why some people in your organization won’t like a strong fundraising offer (something I suspect you already know is going to happen).

And I’ll show you how I convince people to try an offer for the first time. Because after they try it – and don’t see the massive number of complaints and donor exodus they fear – you’re on your way to using offers and raising more money!

Read the entire series:

  1. How to Create a Great Fundraising Offer: What’s an Offer?
  2. Why a Good Fundraising Offer Works So Well
  3. The Ingredients in Successful Offers
  4. How to Describe the “Solution” Your Organization Provides
  5. How to Raise More Money by Asking for the Right Amount
  6. How and Why to Give Your Donors a Reason to Give Today
  7. What About Internal Experts Who Don’t Like Fundraising Offers?
  8. How to Make Sure a Low-Priced Offer Does NOT Produce Small Gifts
  9. Half As Important
  10. Offers for Major Donors
  11. Summarizing and Closing This Chapter on Fundraising Offers

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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