What to Take Out of Your Appeal


My last post talked about how when you’re sending appeals, e-appeals, newsletters, etc. you’re doing direct response fundraising.

As you create your direct response fundraising, here’s one rule that has helped me a lot over the years…

Take out everything that doesn’t help sell the offer

Quick reminder: the “offer” is the promise an appeal makes for what will happen when a donor gives a gift today. (You can learn more about offers here in our free eBook.)

Here’s what this means…

Say your letter is asking donors to fund one particular program. Don’t mention your other programs. You’ve just distracted them from why this particular program should be supported today.

Say your e-appeal is asking donors to give to provide aid to a beneficiary group you help. Don’t talk about how your organization is already helping that beneficiary group. You’ve just told your donor that you’re currently helping those people. This means they don’t really need help today (because you’re already doing it!). And that means your donor doesn’t really need to send in a gift today.

Say your appeal letter is asking donors to give a gift to help people in need. Take out any photos that don’t show people in need. By showing images of happy, healthy people you’ve just contradicted your letter that says they need help.

Say your letter is trying to get donors to give a gift today. Don’t spend part of your letter talking about your monthly giving program. You’ve just distracted them from your purpose of getting a single gift.

Finally, a more complex thing to take out. Say you’re telling a story to illustrate why the donor’s gift is needed today. Only tell the part of the story that relates to the offer. You’ll get what I’m talking about from an example that happens all the time in fundraising for refugees. The organization will share a story about a man who lost his wife in a bombing, had to flee the country, endured tons of hardships, became really sick… and then ask the donor to provide “food and aid with a gift today.” The “food and aid” do not solve the problem that the story sets up.

The organization would be better served by telling the part of the story that the offer can help with. They’d raise more money if they shared something like, “He’s a refugee who has endured tremendous hardship. Now he’s in a refugee camp and he doesn’t have enough food for himself or his children. The children are losing weight and having trouble concentrating. He’s getting thinner by the week. Please send food and aid with a gift today.”

Much of that part of the story is a problem that can be perfectly solved by the offer. When you use stories, only tell the part of the story that relates to the offer.

Stay on Target

Keep your letter (or e-appeal, or event script, etc.) about your offer.

Make sure every single bit of content in your letter is there to make your donor see the need for and power of your offer.

Not your organization, your offer.

Take out anything that doesn’t directly lead your donor to say “yes” to your offer.

You’ll start raising more money in your very next piece of fundraising!


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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