Here are some common pitfalls to avoid if you want to raise more money, not less, through your fundraising appeals:
Don't ask. The truth is if you don't ask you don't get. However, many appeals fail to ask donors to give in compelling and inspiring ways. Some charities seem eager to talk about their needs or share stories and only ask once, rather sheepishly, in the final paragraph of the second page - saying something like: ' We need your support to do all this so please give generously.'
If you want to fundraise successfully make sure you position the ask strategically in various places of your appeal, in the response tool and outer envelope. Ask in a warm and enthusiastic manner, show donors what their gifts will accomplish and thank them in advance for their generous contributions.
Talk a lot about your charity's needs. I am sure donors love your charity but at the end of the day they give for their own reasons not yours. So, stop telling them about your organisational needs (e.g. we must meet our budgets, pay our bills, etc) and don't hog all achievements. Make an effort to understand what motivates your donors to give (and no, it is not because they think you are the best!).
And, start talking about donors as members of your wider team, talk about how they are changing the world and impacting lives through your charity's work.
Don't convey a sense of urgency. The donor might have thought your appeal was good but they filed it away to deal with it some other day. The problem is that one or two weeks later they forgot what moved them about the appeal and threw it away.
To avoid this make sure you communicate to the donor the reasons why they should respond quickly. You can do this by adding a deadline to the letter or by incorporating various reasons as to why the donor should respond with a gift right now.
Don't get donor's attention. According to direct marketing guru Siegfried Vögele you have up to 20 seconds to hook the donor into reading the appeal! During that time they are likely to - open the envelope, examine the contents and decide whether to read on or not.
Are your stories compelling? Is your ask clear? Is the design of the letter clean and simple? Do your photos tell a story? - All the elements of the package need to work together for fundraising success.
Try to convince the head, not move the heart. Cerebral descriptions of your charity's programmes and lots of statistics are great for training your staff team. But, they are not the stuff fundraising letters are made off. Big picture statistics or statements rarely stir someone's heart but good stories do.
Sound too clever. Successful fundraising copy is simple copy that a 'distracted' donor can read with ease. This means using short paragraphs, short sentences and everyday English. Remember that the donor wasn't expecting a letter from you and they probably get a lot of stuff in the mail from other charities too. After a long day the last thing a donor wants to do is read a letter filled with run-on sentences, acronyms and big words.
Send fewer appeals. Often donors are likely to support charities that continue to keep them involved through a variety of communications. And, donors who feel appreciated and true partners in your work are likely to give again and again, when presented with new opportunities to make a difference.