Most people do not expect Public Relations strategies to raise money today.
That’s why I’m always surprised when organizations put PR in their appeals and then are surprised that their appeal raises less money than it could.
Short & Sweet
Keep PR out of your direct response fundraising. That’s your appeals, e-appeals, and newsletters (if you’d like your newsletter to raise money).
Why? Because PR is meant to increase goodwill between the reader and the organization. Merriam-Webster defines it this way: “the business of inducing the public to have understanding for and goodwill toward a person, firm, or institution.”
But the appeals that raise the most money are relentlessly focused on motivating the reader to take action now. That’s a completely different goal and – when pursued – results in a completely different appeal.
Two Places PR Sneaks In
In my experience, here are the two ways PR shows up most often in appeals:
- A story of a person who has already been helped
- A description of the organization, or its programs, meant to make the reader believe that the organization is good at what it does
In my experience, including either of those things in an appeal causes the appeal to raise less money, not more.
- A note on the #2 item above. I often hear nonprofits say things like, “But we have to tell them how effective we are!” Here’s the truth as I’ve experienced it: how effective your organization is (and similar sentiments) is something like the seventh-most important thing at motivating a person to make a gift to an appeal.
If you’ve done a great job communicating and repeating the six things that are more likely to motivate a person to give a gift – things like a great offer, strong urgency, clear negative consequences to inaction, etc. – then by all means mention how effective your organization is. But make sure you cover the more important stuff first.
The Place For PR
There is absolutely a place for PR in your nonprofit communications toolkit.
I’ve seen PR succeed at getting nonprofits in front of new, large groups of potential donors. I’ve seen PR lay the groundwork for successful fundraising campaigns. I’ve seen PR get nonprofits out of communication jams.
But good PR is always focused on helping an organization raise more money in the future.
And an appeal or e-appeal is focused on helping an organization raise more money today.
Mind Blown In 3, 2, 1…
Here’s a mind-bender for you:
A successful, hard-hitting appeal is excellent PR.
How? If successful PR “increases goodwill between the person and the organization,” then a successful appeal is excellent PR because it motivates a lot of people to give a gift – and every one of those donors feels great about giving.
If that’s not goodwill, I don’t know what is.
It’s just that the “goodwill” was developed through the act of giving.
This is the secret I wish more small- to medium-sized organizations knew: the best way to increase goodwill among their donors is to get their donors to give more often, not by telling donors how great the organization is.
So the next time you look at one of your appeals or e-appeals and think, “We’ve got some PR in our fundraising,” take it out. Focus your appeal instead on your offer and a strong ask. You’ll increase goodwill and raise more money at the same time!