We live in a world ruled by sound bites and Twitter posts, where anything beyond a few words and a hashtag seems perfectly Dickensian in scope.
Distractions abound. Attention spans have grown shorter than the average tenure of a Cleveland Browns head coach. What’s a fundraising copywriter to do?
Evidence is clear on this point: We only have a precious few seconds to hook our readers. While a compelling opening certainly doesn’t guarantee further reading, it sure beats the alternative – a stifled yawn from an uninspired potential donor.
Stuck on how to start your appeal? Use these ideas to get your creative juices flowing.
Get to the Heart of the Matter
Rather than test your reader’s patience, state your need upfront. It creates urgency and says, “I know you’re busy, so I won’t waste your time with chitchat.” Here’s an example from a letter we wrote for a hunger mission:
I’m going to be blunt. We desperately need your help to feed and shelter the growing number of hungry and homeless women, children and families who turn to Joy Junction for help.
There’s no way to sugarcoat this fact: 77,000 people wake up in poverty every day in Albuquerque.
Express Your Gratitude
Why wait until the end to say “Thank You,” two words that speak volumes to your donors. Acknowledging your donors’ contributions first makes it easier to ask for another gift down the page.
Focus on the Small Picture First
The big picture can prove daunting to readers. Opening with statistics regarding the enormity of a problem can intimidate, overwhelm and turn away potential donors who may ask, “How can my gift even make a difference?”
Think small…then zoom out to reveal the larger extent of the problem. Tell your readers how they could feed one hungry family, or fund a mammogram for a woman without insurance, or, as in the following appeal we wrote, give one girl the gift of an education:
More than 8,000 miles away in a poor village in rural India, a young girl tends to her many chores, silently harboring a simple wish.
She wants to learn to read and write.
Sadly, she is not alone. More than 90% of the population in India's poorer sections are illiterate.
Use Your Storytelling Skills
Put your readers right in the action. Compel them to ask themselves, “What would I do if that happened to me?”
But don’t give away the whole story. Make them read to the end to find out how things turned out. In the meantime, tell them how much their donations would make a difference. We used this strategy for one of our Ronald McDonald House clients:
Joe and Katie Meagher never imagined the excitement and joy of welcoming their first child into the world would turn to panic and worry. It all happened so fast.
As each contraction intensified, Joe rushed his wife to the hospital miles away in Madison. Their baby’s heart rate was dropping. An emergency breech delivery was critical.
With winter raging outside, Oscar was born 14 weeks early, weighing only one pound, 12 ounces. It would be 110 long days before Katie and Joe could bring their fragile son home. When Katie held Oscar’s tiny hand for the first time, he gently grasped her finger. How could they possibly go home without him? she wondered. What would you do?
There’s nothing worse than staring for hours at a blank screen, praying that your muse hasn’t taken a permanent vacation. Here’s hoping these tips will blast holes in your writer’s block.
Copywriting is one way you can damage your fundraising program. However, there are six other ways in which a program can be hurt, find out the rest of them in our free ebook: