Fundraising 101

What’s in a Message?

Nearly every nonprofit organization solicits donors and prospective donors via some form of written communication – whether it’s a print direct mail letter, a newsletter or an e-blast. Many individuals receive all of these types of solicitations, from multiple organizations, on a regular basis. So what sets your communications apart from all the others? In a word – messaging.

Beyond the how (e or tree), when and what (format), the content of your direct mail solicitation is critical to your effort, especially your opening lines. Your goal is for readers to actually read the whole letter/e-blast, and then act on your request (make a donation on-line, fill out a pledge card, etc.). So you need to grab their attention from the beginning and then present relevant, engaging, pull at the heart strings content, with direct action. Here are a few ways to do just that:

  1. Tell a story – people may not remember facts and figures, but a powerful story will stick with them.
  2. Give staggering statistics – i.e., One out of every four women in America will be physically assaulted or raped by an intimate partner at some point in her life.
  3. Show your impact – How does your organization add value to the world? Why does your work matter?
  4. Include a photo or video – The old saying “a picture tells a thousand words” still rings true; a photo or video grabs attention and often communicates what words can not.
  5. Make it personal –Answer the question, “what does this have to do with me?”

By following these simple guidelines, you can develop a message that is compelling, meaningful, and draws the reader in – and then leaves them wanting more. And make sure to end the solicitation by directly asking for what you want – be specific, because there’s a good chance you’ll get it!