READ TIME: 3 minutes

Writing a Successful Fundraising Appeal

A How-To Guide

By Franny Lown

While fundraising campaigns revolve around why an organization is asking for money, an appeal is how to go about reaching a campaign goal. An appealin this case a request for donations, is a process rather than one isolated ask.  

For example, an education-based nonprofit organization might run a fundraising campaign to help send students from underprivileged communities to college. The goal of the campaign is to create a scholarship fund for students, and the organization can set up appeals through emailsevents, phone-a-thons, and direct mailings in order to secure funding to reach that goal.  

What does a fundraising appeal include?

For now, let’s focus on the appeal language. How do you write a successful fundraising appeal to your supporters? How do you compel them to give 

Below is a guide to get you started. Choose the best approach(es) based on the needs of your organization while communicating your impact in the communities you serve.  

As a general rule-of-thumb, successful fundraising appeals typically include the following components: 

  1. A compelling, emotional story  
  2. Clear call-to-action 
  3. Powerful imagery or video 

Start at the beginning.

The opening line of your appeal is perhaps the most important part, so make it count!

  • Make it personal. Start by addressing your supporters by name.  
    • “Thanks to you, [Supporter’s Name], we are able to…”  
  • Don’t be afraid to ask early! Ask early and ask often.  
      • “[Supporter’s Name], would you believe that $1 can make a difference?”  

    Tell a compelling story.

    • Highlight your organization’s value proposition with donors by telling a compelling story about a recipient of your services or the problem your organization is working to solve.  
    • Include powerful, beautiful images or video, as they will always speak louder than words.   
    • Show impact and explain how a donation will have tangible effect. If possible, include giving levels to encourage donors of any budget to help out.
      • “$30 covers food and shelter for homeless animals for three weeks.” 
      • “$100 fills the fridge of a family in need.” 
      • “$250 will provide formula and diapers to a newborn for two weeks.”   
    • Avoid jargon. It’s easy to speak colloquially when addressing your own organization’s community, but keep it simple and approachable when speaking to the masses.  

    Create a sense of urgency.

    Encourage current and prospective supporters to “act now” and create a healthy amount of pressure around the donation ask.  A few tried and true methods for motivating donors to give include: 

    • MATCHING DONATIONS
      • In the nonprofit space, this approach is most commonly taken in coordination with a matching donation for a limited time. 
        • “Give $50 today and your donation will be matched, courtesy of [list donor or partner name]!”  
        • “All donations up to $25,000 will be matched through [date]! 
        • “Today only: double your impact!”
    • TAX DEDUCTIONS
      • End-of-year donation solicitations are common and for good reason – it’s the last opportunity to remind donors that their contributions to nonprofits are tax deductible. Approximately 10 percent of annual giving occurs in the last three days of December.  
        • “Last chance to make your tax-deductible donation in 2018.”  
        • “There’s still time to make a tax-deductible gift to support individuals in need who rely on [organization name].”  

    Provide a clear call-to-action.

    Make the call-to-action (CTA) clear and keep it front and center. Be deliberate about word choice, as how you frame your appeal will help to determine your success. 

    • IMAGINE – Encourage supporters to think about the optimal outcome their donation will bring. 
    • YOU – The words “you” and “your” are powerful 
      • “You have the ability to help [organization name] served the those in need.”  
      • “Your donation helps prevent homelessness among teens and young adults.” 
    • BECAUSE – Give your supporters context around why and how their donations enable good, important work.  
      • [Organization] is in need of your financial support because we have the ability to serve individuals facing challenges.” 
    • OTHER COMMONLY USED CTAS – Best featured in a button, at the end of your appeal, and/or with an active link to a donation checkout page: 
      • Donate Now; Donate Today  
      • Give Now, Give Today  
      • Contribute Today; Make a Contribution  
      • Make a Gift  
      • Invest in Our Mission  
      • Make an Investment   
      • Help Deliver Aid   
      • Pledge Your Support  
      • Chip In Today  
      • Become a Monthly Donor  

    Brevity recommended.

    Keep it short! It’s important to clearly state why you’re asking for funds, and brevity is key when soliciting donations. In case a supporter wishes to learn more, include a link to a website, landing page, article, or video with more information while keeping the appeal brief and straight to the point. That’s all we have to say about that. 

    Show your gratitude.

    Thank those who have subscribed or given previously. If you’re targeting supporters who’ve previously given to your cause, ensure you acknowledge their contribution. “Thanks to supporters like you, [organization name] is able to provide…”  

    In short, keep it simple, tell your story, and encourage your supporters to donate!


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