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October 19, 2016

How to Get Your Appeal Started: For the Procrastinating Fundraiser

If you are one of those people who hasn’t yet started your year-end appeal, take heart. This post will help you get your first draft down on paper today.

You don’t have to re-invent the wheel every time your write an appeal. There are several tried-and-true appeal styles that can help you shape your year-end effort. Here are 5 of our favorites:

The “What-we-did-last-year-and-what-we-want-to-do-next-year” Appeal

A classic! This appeal format gives your donors a sense of how their money was spent (and that is their number one concern, by the way) and also frames the ask in terms of what their annual contribution could make happen in 2017.

How to write it: Take language from your annual report or newsletters that documents the progress over the last year. To paint a picture of your organization’s work in 2017, go straight to the top and ask your CEO or Program Director what their goals are and how  donors’ money can help accomplish them.

The Story from the Front Line

Always a hit! This is when the appeal is written in the voice of someone who is actually doing the work of the organization. It can also feature a client. Particularly in human services and advocacy organizations, these stories are extremely compelling. The donor is put right in the middle of the action so that they can see their impact.

How to write it: Consider audio-taping a conversation with a staff member or client. Ask prompting questions that you can weave into the narrative. If you are collaborating with a client, ask them to tell you the story of how they came to the organization and how it has helped them. If you are writing in the voice of a staff member, ask them about some recent memorable work moments.

The Board Member or Devoted Volunteer Ask

This is very effective for those organizations where peers look to each other for inspiration and motivation. Or, where the board member or volunteer is a public-figure or extremely respected in the field. The volunteer tells of their commitment and asks the audience to join in.

How to write it: You can use the audio-recording idea above to capture the voice of your board member or volunteer. You can also ask the volunteer to write the first draft, without any care of grammar or structure. This makes it easier for them and helps you capture their language and personality in the writing.

The Campaign Appeal

Try a campaign-style appeal where you make a “case for giving” for raising a specific amount of money for a specific piece of work. This type of appeal gives a sense of urgency to get the money in the door by the end of the calendar year.

How to write it: First ensure you have the specifics lined up with your program team, both in terms of the monetary goal and the program outcomes. Then, create that sense of urgency that inspires people to want to be part of the “campaign”.  Be able to answer this question: Why is this money needed NOW?

The Matching Gift

An oldie-but-goodie! Matching gifts are also about urgency – the urgency of having a donors’ gift matched by another individual, corporation, or foundation. A match makes donors feel like they are giving more than the value of their check. The appeal is about how that gift can have double or triple the impact.

How to write it: This one may be tough for a true procrastinator because you have to line up a matching gift. However, you’ll find that board members, devoted volunteers, and many donors respond to the idea. In the appeal itself, focus on the role the donor’s match will play in impact. How many more people, creatures, or acres of land will be affected by the additional money raised with this matching gift?

Whatever your timing is for your appeal, these 5 tried-and-true appeal formats can work for you! And if you still get writers’ block, take a look at some of our tips for writers’ block: 7 Tips for Writing Effective Fundraising Copy

Good luck!

photo courtesy of Stephen Cannon, Flickr

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