Over the last few months, our Vidare Creative team has been sharing insights and thoughts about what we heard from the speakers at our Fundraising21 conference in Nashville in July.

I don’t know if this is against the rules or anything, but I’m going to share a little more on my own presentation I called “Direct Mail Magic.” 

It actually crosses the borders from direct mail into ALL of the messaging we create regarding our fundraising appeals. Direct mail, email, social media, and on-air all use the same principles of creating an effective, motivating message.

I call it the “why” and the “why now.” It’s the perfect intersection of emotion and urgency. “Why should I care and why should I do something about it?”

Many appeals I have seen (including some that I’ve written myself) lack the basic fundamentals that cause people to take action. You can be a great writer and weave an emotional tale demonstrating the power of your ministry, but if you don’t couple that with a specific ask, a goal, and a deadline your readers are unlikely to take action.

The Giving Grid

This grid shows the direct relationship between emotion and urgency when creating your fundraising appeals. The more of both you can add, the more magic you create.

This grid shows the direct relationship between emotion and urgency when creating your fundraising appeals. The more of both you can add, the more magic you create.

Yes, you should tell a great story. 

But a great story on its own will not move the needle. Let me repeat that…A GREAT STORY ON ITS OWN WILL NOT MOVE THE NEEDLE. The great story is your “Why Give?” but it does not create action by itself. It must be reinforced by the urgency to act NOW.

In the above graphic, Quadrant A is where I see too many fundraising appeals. There’s a story but no emotion. There’s an ask but it’s not specific or urgent. There’s no goal or deadline. As I tell clients all the time, if that’s the quadrant your appeal lands in…save your breath. Spend the invaluable attention your donors give you on something that will actually be a win.

Quadrant B is a little better, at least there is some emotion if you tell your story with authenticity and passion. But as I said before, this story by itself will likely not inspire action. Remember, as my friend Paul Goldsmith says, “It’s not the story, it’s how the story makes me feel.” I included tips on telling effective stories in my last post.

Quadrant C is the opposite of B. There is no emotion, but lots of urgency. This comes off as pushy. Urgency only is effective AFTER you have created a bond between your brand and your donor. 

Think about an infomercial. They don’t start off an infomercial with the “CALL NOW” message. They spend 90 percent of their time telling you all the great things the magic rotisserie can do for you and how it will change your life. THEN they push you with urgency. “PLUS…if you act NOW!!!!”

Quadrant D is where the magic happens, when you find the right combination of emotion and urgency that makes the donor not only want to be a part of your ministry, but provides them with a specific way that can act that will make a difference RIGHT NOW. Quadrant D is where you wanna be!

People are busy. Intellectually they may love your ministry. But they don’t have the time or desire to figure out what you need. Tell them. Be specific about what you are asking them to do, and a deadline to get it done.

Also, don’t be afraid to weave multiple instances of emotion and urgency throughout your direct mail piece. Keep going back to the life that was changed. Keep reminding them why it’s important to act now. I go back to the example I shared a few months ago from The River (click the image below). Notice the multiple touch points in this email that build urgency. (Keep in mind, this was an email on the last day of their fundraiser, so it was really about the urgency of the need and the last minute. That’s why there wasn’t as strong of a story included.)

Often, on the air, we are good about using deadlines and specific asks. But in direct mail and email pieces, I very often see us miss it. 

When you finish writing your appeal, go back over it and ask yourself the following questions:

    1. Who is my audience?
    2. Did I speak to them in a way that will inspire and move them emotionally?
    3. Did I tell them exactly what I want them to do, with a goal and deadline?

One Final Thought

Once you’ve done the hard work of inspiring and motivating, make it easy for them to respond. Do your best to remove the friction from your giving process. The more hoops they have to jump through to give, the less chance they’ll follow the process through to the end.

Make sure the way to give on your website is obvious and easy. Use a QR code on your direct mail pieces to make it simple to respond. Don’t put a lot of copy on the giving page, make it easy to navigate and get the most important information first. In a future blog I will offer some suggestions for your web giving.

The last thing you want to do is to get them ready to give, then lose them because they couldn’t figure out how.