Stay in the Now

In the now.

When asking for support in an appeal letter or e-appeal, stay in the now.

Don’t talk about what your organization has done in the past. Don’t talk about how many people you’ve helped in the past. Don’t tell a story about someone you’ve helped in the past.

Here’s why…

In our experience, the most successful appeals focus on what is happening now and what the donor can do about it. Here are some examples:

  • There is a person who has a disease, and you can supply the cure.
  • There’s a classroom of kids that’s behind in math. You can provide the tutoring to get them caught up and even testing ahead of grade level.
  • Today there’s a person with a vestibular disorder and she’s dizzy. You can connect her to a trained physician.

You get the idea.

Anything else in the appeal that’s not about “what’s happening right now and what the donor can do about it” tends to be:

  1. A distraction from what’s going on now, and
  2. Takes up space you could be using talking about what’s going on now

You should mention and focus on the good things that have happened in the past when you are Reporting back to your Reports (usually in your newsletters). Or when you have more time to make the ask, like at an event or in a meeting with a major donor.

But when you’re asking for support in an appeal or e-appeal – when donors are doing more “scanning” than reading – it’s “what’s happening right now that a donor can help with” that is the most likely to cause a donor to give a gift.

Two Futures to Mention

I can think of only two times to mention the future in an appeal.

The first is when you share what the outcome of the donor’s gift will be. Using the examples above, that could look something like this:

  • When you supply the cure, you completely eliminate the disease from a person’s body. They will go on to live a normal, healthy life!
  • The tutoring you make possible will radically improve the students’ understanding of math. They’ll become more likely to graduate, to go to college, and even to get high-paying jobs!
  • For a person with a vestibular disorder, connecting with a physician means they’ll get a proper diagnosis and be on the path to a dizziness-free life and be able to leave the house again.

The second is to share the vision of the organization for the future. That results in examples like this:

  • Your gift will also help eradicate the disease, creating a disease-free world!
  • Our goal is to create a world where every child possesses the math and STEM skills they need to succeed.
  • We believe that every person with a vestibular disorder deserves a good diagnosis, and your gift helps us work towards that future.

But in our experience, focusing on “what’s happening now and what the donor can do about it” is the surest way to a gift in the mail and email.

Good Fundraising Habit #57: Always Give Your Donor Reasons to Give Now

Good Fundraising Habit #57: Always Give Your Donor Multiple Reasons to Give Now

The appeal letters and e-appeals that do the best tend to have something in common: they give donors multiple good reasons to give a gift right now.

This highlights a really good habit to get into as a Fundraiser: any time you’re asking for money, give your audience multiple reasons to give a gift right now.

And here’s a list of “reasons to give today” that routinely cause donors to take action:

  • A matching grant with an expiration date
  • A deadline of any kind
  • A shortfall
  • A need facing beneficiaries or the organization right now
  • Telling donors they will love how they feel when they give
  • Stating what will happen if beneficiaries are not helped

Contrast this to what most nonprofit appeals and e-appeals do: tell a story about a person or thing the organization has already helped, and ask the donor to “continue this good work” or “join us as we do more of this.”

If you read those appeals carefully, you’ll see that there’s no reason that the donor’s help is needed today.

And if your donor had two appeals in her hand – and she has at least two on most days – which do you think she’d respond to? The one that asks her to “continue this good work” or the one that gives her several reasons why her gift is needed today?

You know the answer.

So for your next appeal or e-appeal, be sure to include multiple good reasons for your donor to respond immediately after reading it.

You’ll be glad you did because you’ll raise more money.

And believe it or not, your donors will be glad you did, too. They love knowing what your organization and your beneficiaries are facing now, and they love being able to help with a gift!


Would you like to start 2019 knowing that your appeals, e-appeals and newsletters are going to work better than they ever have?

Wouldn’t that make you breathe a little easier? Would more money help meet your fundraising goals and enable your organization to do more good?

A team of experts from Better Fundraising can create your appeals, e-appeals and newsletters for you. You’ll free up time to focus on important things that aren’t getting done now, and your fundraising will raise more money. It’s like an “EASY” button for your fundraising communications, and your first month is free – an average savings of $3,500. Wonder if it’s a fit for your organization? Fill out this super-short form and we’ll get in touch!