James Bond Without a Villain


I saw an appeal recently and a thought that popped into my head:

“This is like a James Bond movie without a villain. Everything looks really good, but there’s not anything interesting happening.”

I had that reaction because the appeal I was looking at had no conflict.

Everything was going great for the organization. They’d helped a lot of people.

It’s good to remember that conflict is one of the main things that causes humans to engage. There are no successful movies without conflict. There are no successful stories without conflict.

And I’d argue that almost no fundraising reaches its potential without conflict.

Think about the James Bond movies: when the villain is evil and interesting, James Bond looks extraordinarily capable and successful. When the villain is uninteresting and poorly-drawn, James Bond looks more like a fashion model.

The Bond movies that do poorly at the box office tend to be movies where the villain isn’t particularly interesting. They still make money, but not as much.

And that’s just a movie – which doesn’t compare to the real-life situations that beneficiaries and nonprofit organizations face every day.

What does this mean for your next appeal?

If you want to raise more money, you should tell your donor what their gift will accomplish and also tell them the “enemy” their gift will defeat.

You’ve seen this before:

  • “Send in a gift to fight cancer!”
  • “Your gift will help stop the [opposing candidate] from being elected!”
  • “You’ll strike a blow against the system that holds our kids back.”

Adding the idea that “the donor’s gift will defeat or fight back against an enemy” is a tried-and-true way to increase how much money you raise because:

  • Your appeals are already engaging for people who are inspired by your organization’s work
  • Now your appeals will additionally engage people who are moved by “need” in the world

Think of it like a two-fer for the donor: their gift will do good and help defeat an enemy.

And when you engage more of your donors, and you provide additional reasons to give, you’ll raise more money!

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!


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