Breaking into four types of donors

Writing a fundraising appeal

If you’re not convincing people with your fundraising appeal, even the most important cause can sink like the Titanic.

Good copy is the backbone of your fundraising appeal.

Whether you’re writing for your newsletter, direct mail, website, or brochures, you need to be dang sure that your fundraising materials are persuasive.

It’s so important, in fact, that Tom Ahern – fundraising copy genius – wrote a book about it: How to Write Fundraising Materials That Raise More Money. He says to imagine “four sets of ears” listening to your fundraising appeal. You need to persuade all of them.

These personalities are amiable, expressive, skeptical, and bottom-liner. Most of us favor one over the other, but still, have elements of all four wrapped up in our brains.

Here are some copywriting tips to appeal to these four personality types:


These are the friendly, sympathetic people. They respond to the “human element” in fundraising – they care about helping, they care about people, they care about the community. To get their attention, you should:

  • Use photos of faces – This is like establishing eye contact with the reader. They are drawn into the story by connecting with the person in the photo.
  • Use anecdotes and stories Tell the tale of an individual person in your copy. Describe their life and how it has changed in a vivid, hopeful way. You’ll snag the amiable types right away.


Expressives want to know what’s new, what’s different. Get their attention by stating your news right upfront – your first paragraph or the front of your website. Create excitement to draw this group in. So, what qualifies as news? It could be:

  • An exciting new initiative
  • An impact story about a client whose life has changed in tangible ways
  • An emerging trend
  • A problem people aren’t aware of yet


This is a cautious group. While they make anecdotes well enough, they’ll need a lot more convincing. They are probably suspicious of your motives. So how do you overcome their skepticism? Work out what their doubts are ahead of time and respond to them.

  • Make yourself an expert People should be able to look to you for answers to their questions. Make sure everything can be found easily on your website. Most of us do a ton of research before we even buy some new sneakers – donating to a charity takes even more.
  • Have an FAQ section Try to anticipate what objections a skeptical person might have about your nonprofit or your cause. Get the answers and then post the FAQs on your website, include them in your fundraising materials, and give them out to volunteers.
  • Use testimonials – Credible testimonies of real people you’ve helped can soothe even the strongest skeptic. They should talk about real problems you’ve solved.


This group is action-driven. They want to know what to do next and how. So make it easy for them by being specific.

  • Call to action – This donor will be triggered by a specific, concrete call to action. Tell them exactly what to do and how to do it.
  • Give clear instructions – Do you want them to volunteer? Provide the contact information of the person running those projects. Do you want their email? Put your “subscribe” button on your website where it’ll be seen. Ask them again after they donate or engage with you on social media.

If you write your fundraising appeals with these four personality types in mind, you will win people over by tugging on their heart-strings, getting their attention with fresh news, overcoming their skepticism, and giving them concrete instructions.

Put some strategy into how you write your fundraising appeals. You don’t need to be an amazing writer to apply these best practices – just a smart one.

Title photo from mutsmuts

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