Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Is your appeal urgent?

I've had a few philosophical discussions (and debates) about the use of the word urgent in fundraising appeals.

My take is simple. If you need the money and you're putting it to good use, it's difficult to argue it isn't urgent.

That being said, it can be tricky going back with the same message every single time you appeal to your supporters.

There are a number of ways you can display the need for funds in an urgent manner, without the use of the word emblazoned across every page of the appeal and the outer envelope, namely:

- The use of a deadline. "Will you please send your gift by the 30th of June so I can decide with my team whether we will be able to fund XYZ..."

- The tone and language used within the letter. No need to sensationalize, but linking the need to a real person helps bring home the gravity of the situation. And hence the need to drop everything and act. Now.

- The repetition of the ask, which reinforces the need, and implicitly it's urgency. As a rule, within a 4 page letter aim to have the ask repeated 5-6 times to maximize results.

And there is another way. Please note, this is merely a tactic and I wouldn't suggest using this more than once. See the diagram below of a pack we developed a few years back. Anything stand out?

If you guessed the express post envelope (with guaranteed next day delivery) then you were right.

This was sent to around 450 identified high value donors. The pack cost more than $10 a piece for this segment, but bought in well over $100k. Not bad.

Of course the success can't be solely attributed to the use of the express post envelope. The message within had to look and feel urgent. Which it did.

The envelope definitely helped. But remember, this was a tactic, and it hasn't been used for this group since.

Ask yourself, is my appeal really urgent? And if so look at ways you can display it's critical nature, besides the use of the dreaded 'U' word.


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