Keep Up the Urgency

Urgent Alarm

“Urgency” was one of the reasons so many organizations’ direct response fundraising raised so much money during the pandemic.

Fundraising that was urgent tapped into donors’ wishes to do something to help right now.

But sounding urgent all the time is tiring.  Fundraisers are tired of it.

So a lot of nonprofits are dialing back the urgency.

And they are going to raise less money.

This is a plea to keep the urgency in your fundraising work this year.

You Might Be Tired of It, But Donors Aren’t

You might be tired of sounding urgent all the time, but your donors aren’t.

Remember, you and your organization read every word of every thing you send out.  Sometimes you read it twice or three times because you’re involved in creating it.

But most donors read less than half of the things you send out.  And they don’t usually read, they scan.

So they haven’t heard it nearly as many times.  Just because you and other stakeholders are tired of it doesn’t mean donors are tired of it.

Urgency is a Signal

It’s always good to remember just how many appeals your donors see on a daily or weekly basis. 

My sense is that donors use the urgency of a message to help answer the question, “Does this organization really need a gift today?”  If the copy and design are urgent, you have a greater chance to break through the clutter, a greater chance that the donor will pick your organization to support.

Or you can reduce the urgency and blend in with all the other appeals on her desk and in her inbox.

Stop Being Urgent When Urgency Stops Working

Keep using urgency until urgency stops working.  Let your donors decide; don’t make the decisions for them.

And as I mentioned earlier, you’ll get tired of it faster than donors will, because you pay more attention and you see it more often.

Be Urgent Even If It Doesn’t Feel Urgent to You

Some organizations are so used to their work – are so used to the new world we live in – that their work doesn’t seem that urgent any longer.

But I bet what happens today and tomorrow is urgent to your beneficiaries. 

And I bet it feels urgent to the vast majority of your donors, too.

Don’t Hide the Need Behind Boilerplate Copy and Pastel Design

If your organization or beneficiaries have a need, don’t hide that need from your donors.

Your organization exists in part to share the need – to make more people aware of the need so that more people are motivated to meet the need.

The urgency of the last year helped a lot of organizations stop hiding the need behind boilerplate industry jargon and lovely pastel design.  They were clear about the needs facing their beneficiaries.  They used urgent oranges and klaxon reds.

And it worked like crazy.

If your beneficiaries or cause are facing needs right now, don’t let up.  Especially because after a year of this, the edges are fraying and the seams are showing for a lot of children … and families … and organizations.

So now, as even the media is moving on from the pandemic and won’t be reinforcing your fundraising messages, baking urgency into your fundraising is more important than ever.

It’s urgent that you do.


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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