When it comes to fundraising appeals, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Instead, finding out what works for your organization and donor base is critical.
We’ve put together the ultimate guide to fundraising appeals to help you determine what will work best for your nonprofit organization. This guide covers everything from the basics, from crafting an appeal to specific strategies that have been proven to work. Hence, this guide is for you, whether you’re just getting started with fundraising appeals or looking for ways to improve your existing strategy.
What is a Fundraising Appeal?
A fundraising appeal is a formal request for donations from individuals or organizations. Nonprofits appeal, but political candidates and other causes can also make them. Fundraising appeals usually take the form of a letter, email, or personal visit. However, they can also be made through social media, phone calls, or other methods.
A fundraising appeal whose core purpose is to persuade potential donors to give money to support a cause. Therefore, appeals should be well-crafted and tailored to their target audience.
What Makes a Good Fundraising Appeal?
There is no surefire formula for crafting the perfect fundraising appeal, but there are some key elements that all successful appeals share.
A good fundraising appeal:
- Clearly states the need for donations
- Make a strong case for why the cause is worth supporting
- Asks for a specific amount of money
- Offer donors different ways to give
- Explain how their donation will be used
- Provides a deadline or sense of urgency
- Includes a call to action
- Says thank you in advance for donations
Keep these elements in mind as you write your next fundraising appeal. Let’s deep dive into each of these elements and have a closer look:
1) Clearly State the Need for Donations: The first step in writing a successful fundraising appeal is clearly stating the need for donations. Your major donors need to know why you’re asking for their money and what difference their contribution will make.
Be specific about your money and what it will be used for. For example, “We need to raise money of $5,000 to buy new equipment for our after-school program.”
2) Make a Strong Case for Why the Cause is Worth Supporting: The second step is to make a strong case for why your cause is worth supporting. Donors need to know that their money will be well-spent and that their donation will make a difference.
To do this, you’ll need to communicate the impact of your work. For example, “Our after-school program helps keep kids off the streets and out of trouble.”
3) Asks for a Specific Amount of Money: The third step is asking for a specific amount. Although, this might seem like a minute detail, it’s essential.
When you ask for a specific amount, you’re more likely to get donations than if you ask for “whatever people can afford.”
4) Offering Donors Different Ways to Give: The fourth step is to offer donors different ways to give. For example, some people prefer to give online donations, while others may like to write a check or make a donation in person.
It is essential to make it easy for potential donors to give in the way they prefer.
5) Explains How Their Donation Will Be Used: The fifth step is to explain how their donation will be used. It’s with good intentions that contributors are conscious to know that their money will be used to align with their values.
For example, if you’re raising money for a new roof for your school, you might say, “Your contributions will provide the support to help us keep our students safe and dry during the rainy season.”
6) Providing a Deadline or Sense of Urgency: The sixth step is to provide a deadline or sense of urgency. This helps potential donors understand that their donation is needed now and not later.
For example, you might say, “We need to raise $5,000 by the end of the month to buy new equipment for our after-school program.”
7) Incorporating a Call to Action: The seventh step is to include a call to action. This is your opportunity to tell potential contributors what you want them to do, such as “donate now” or “spread the word.”
8) Says Thank You in Advance for Donations: The eighth and final step is to say thank you in advance for donations. This helps create a sense of appreciation and mutual respect between you and potential donors.
A fundraising appeal is an essential element of your nonprofit fundraising strategy because it’s the mechanism by which you ask for donations from individuals who are most likely to give. Your appeal is the last step between developing awareness and receiving a donation after you’ve done the hard work and established a fundraising events plan to attract people’s attention.
Fundraising appeals include a “request” in the form of general donation requests, sponsorship demands, in-kind giving requests, and more. Regardless of the sort of appeal you’re making, we’ll go through some best practices that apply to all types of fundraising goals.
Strategic fundraising appeals are essential in assisting nonprofit organizations in achieving their financial objectives and making a difference. Below are some useful hints to help your staff accomplish this:
- Begin with a well-thought-out fundraising plan.
- Focus on donor retention and stewardship.
- Engage donors at several stages of the giving process.
- Don’t be afraid to seek help from specialists in this area.
A well-written fundraising appeal will improve your final fundraising results. Let’s look at some of the best practices for writing the most successful appeal possible.
Begin with a well-thought-out fundraising plan.
Achieving your desired fundraising targets starts with having a dependable fundraising strategy. Although most fundraising strategies share some commonalities, it’s crucial to remember that you’ll need to adjust your plan based on what works best for both your organization and its supporters.
You’ll need to create an effective fundraising plan that properly accounts for your team’s unique qualities before achieving your campaign goals. To succeed in donor retention, it is not enough to wait for support; you have to get your donors’ attention first with compelling appeals. For a strong foundation, start with these essential steps:
Examine your company’s current approaches.
What fundraising strategies has your organization used in the past, and which of those were successful or unsuccessful? Keep the methods that seemed to work well with your donors, and avoid anything that didn’t have as much success.
When you analyze the results of your historical fundraising efforts, remember that you’ll have to break them down by campaign and donation source. This should be standard practice for anyone planning a new fundraising campaign.
Before beginning your fundraiser, set realistic goals.
In terms of campaign management, it’s critical to establish clear objectives for each campaign based on various criteria. These include your target donor’s past giving abilities, how much is required to achieve your goal, and key contributors in your network.
Subsequently, consider which specific audiences or messages will be most advantageous to assist you in achieving those objectives. A simplistic example might be an extensive capital campaign; it would make sense to go after big donors by devising your appeals specifically for that group with a personal touch.
Your fundraising objectives may be much more ambitious than simply raising money. For example, you can strive to improve your donor retention or the number of significant donations.
Create a strategy.
Once you’ve decided which kinds of messages and contributors are appropriate for your campaign’s objectives, it’s time to get specific. A clear plan of action helps everyone in your organization stay focused and aligned.
Consider the following factors while developing an effective fundraising appeal strategy to get the most out of your outreach:
- The means or channels you intend to communicate with your target audience.
- Donors who would be most likely to support this campaign.
- How you will word your call to action is essential.
With a well-defined strategy, you’ll be prepared to pull off an effective campaign with fundraising appeals that are tailored to the correct contributors.
What objectives do you want to achieve? Then, choose your key performance indicators (KPIs) accordingly.
Establish KPIs and set reasonable targets to gauge if your fundraising methods are effective. Then, by tracking data that correlates to your pre-determined goals and strategies, you can adjust as needed. For example:
- To increase the number of recurring donations, keep an eye on how many previous contributors come in. This data might tell you who your most active and frequent contributors are.
- By setting KPIs focused on registration and engagement with your promotional materials, you can design appeals to increase attendance at your event. Doing this allows you to see if any changes need to be made to your communication strategy.
- By tracking open email rates, your team can determine if changes need to be made to ensure that email outreach is working.
Supporter engagement is vital to the success of your campaign, and these metrics will help you understand how they interact with your efforts.
By implementing these four fundamental steps, you will lay the groundwork for creating efficient fundraising appeals that you can continue to improve upon in the future.
Focus on donor retention and stewardship.
When making your plan, finding the perfect balance between donor stewardship and solicitation appeals is essential. Your donors must know that they play a vital role in your organization and that you couldn’t achieve your goals without them.
For example, stewardship messages should be periodically sent in between your fundraising appeals. For example
- Recognizing and thanking donors for their support.
- Don’t leave your supporters in the dark–keep them updated on your campaign’s progress!
- Keep them engaged with your organization and encourage them to participate in new ways.
- Show your appreciation by sending thank you notes.
In other words, effective stewardship entails that your organization respect your contributor’s philanthropic goals and expectations. In addition, you build a long-term beneficial relationship with your contributors when you practice good stewardship.
The key to a successful organization is donor retention, as it is cheaper to keep existing donors than to find new ones. Donor acquisition can be a costly and time-consuming process, but by retaining your current donors, they will eventually become dependable contributors.
Combining calls to action and relationship-building content in your broader fundraising appeal plan will generate more value and deeper connections with your donor base over time. Keep in mind that when planning a campaign, think about how you’ll thank contributors, show the progress they’ve helped make, and inform them about their ultimate impact on your cause.
Engage donors at several stages of the giving process.
A multi-channel strategy for communications is the most effective way to make your fundraising appeal today so that you can easily reach a large audience. By using this tactic, you can communicate with people through digital and physical channels.
You can also use this approach to connect with your specific audience via various channels and methodically build their interest and involvement toward a common objective. The ultimate goal for your crafted campaigns is for your target audience to respond favorably to your last appeal and perform the target action you want them to. Consider the following three channels when developing an appealing strategy:
Among GivingMail’s nonprofit marketing statistics, direct mail is the most successful channel for nonprofits. This is because around 90% of direct-response donations come from direct mail. Digital marketing outlets may have a higher response rate, but nonprofits should not underestimate the power of good old-fashioned snail mail when it comes to fundraising appeals.
There are various reasons why your potential donors might respond well to physical fundraising appeals, such as:
- Unlike most of the digital world, letters are tangible and stand out.
- The mail is obvious and gets noticed.
- Did you know that people are more likely to remember physical mail than digital messages?
Easy ways to give or get involved could include returning a donation envelope with your direct mail appeal or by prominently stating the URL for your campaign’s online donation process page.
Email appeals are just one more avenue for a successful multi-channel marketing strategy. You can get more up-to-date and specific KPIs with digital mail than with direct mail. Users’ interactions with your software, such as opening it, clicking on links, and spending time reading content, can be captured by data. Email marketing is an excellent choice for outreach because it has so many benefits:
- Outreach that doesn’t break the bank
- This tool provides specific insights that can help improve your business.
- It’s simple for contributors to give.
- Using an interesting or catchy subject line, you want your email to stand out.
Furthermore, group your donors based on their interactions with your campaign. Segments can be anything from those who respond to and read your emails to those who take extra actions like donating or signing up for an event. For example, you can create segments for general responsiveness, average gift amount, and any other qualifiers significant to each campaign.
Create distinct subject lines for your emails to help you stand out. Additionally, segment your benefactors depending on their campaign activity. These categories might include those who respond and read your emails and those who do different things, like donate or sign up for an event. For example, you may create segments based on overall responsiveness, average gift amount, or other criteria pertinent to each campaign.
You might want to investigate your donor data to see what social media activities they’ve engaged in previously and which platforms are the most popular among your target audience.
Adding social media to your marketing mix has several advantages, such as:
- The different channels of social media platforms allow organizations to choose what works best for them.
- Keep a journal of your campaign’s progress; this will allow you to track your success. The outcomes of your outreach efforts may be tracked through social media data.
- Most of your contributors are on social media and are likely to follow and engage with your organization’s dynamic pages.
When creating social media fundraising appeals, your material will appear on the feeds of your supporters. Include a link to contribute to your postings and profile sites so that people understand how they can support you. Remember that whatever platform you pick should be the focus of your content. For example, the Facebook algorithm favors original (not reposted) videos, whereas Instagram is all about high-resolution photos.
Don’t hold yourself back from seeking help from specialists in this area.
Consultants for nonprofit organizations can assist you in developing or fine-tuning your fundraising plan. First, these professionals may help your organization figure out the best segmentation and appeal methods for achieving its objectives. After that, your staff may determine which prospects or audiences to continue pursuing to get the most out of your campaign.
You may develop your fundraising appeals, but hiring a professional to deal with your most challenging problems is advised. Plenty of publications and partners specialize in all sorts of campaigns and fundraising efforts.
Assume your team is seeking more efficient techniques to send direct mail appeals. In that situation, you’d hire a direct mail fundraising firm to offer valuable suggestions and assistance in making better requests.
On the other hand, some consulting businesses assist nonprofit organizations in various ways. These are some examples:
- Goals for fundraising
- Developing an informed business strategy
- Board leadership
- Creating a plan for what to do in the event of an emergency
Many partnership-driven nonprofit consulting firms specialize in donor cultivation and fundraising strategy for large-scale campaigns. With the assistance of a professional consultancy, your staff may be certain that you will achieve objectives with expert knowledge.
Following these best practices will optimize your organization’s mission for fundraising appeals and help you make better decisions. With these resources, you’re sure to have a successful campaign.
Whether you’re a startup organization or a leading corporation, CommunityForce provides fully customizable, all-in-one online grant management solutions to maximize your efficiency, simplify complex processes, and improve collaboration so you can focus on increasing your impact. We’ve helped organizations streamline their entire process no matter the size and scope of their giving.