6 Ways Your Fundraising Message Isn’t Making The Cut + Quick Refresh Checklist

Tina Jepson
Tina Jepson

Fundraising is all about evolution. So is your fundraising message.

You evolve your annual calendar to reach your donors more efficiently. You evolve your story to capture the ever-growing impact your cause provides to the community. And you evolve the ways you solicit to ensure you’re relevant and you can stand out in an economy that’s increasingly connected both online and offline.

But as you’re continuing to evolve your processes, I believe it’s a good idea to refresh your fundraising message as well. After all, your fundraising message is arguably the best tool you have to convert a prospective supporter into an active participant. Whether your appeal is a story, video, an image, a call-to-action, or all of the above, it’s a catalyst for giving—and it’s essential.

So, here’s the million dollar question: Is your fundraising message up to snuff?

Whether it’s amazing or in need of a thorough tune-up, it’s important to review and refresh your fundraising message based on trends, feedback, and results. Let’s take a look at some of the ways your message might not be hitting the right notes. Then, follow the provided checklist to fine-tune it.

6 Ways Your Message Isn’t Making the Cut

1. There’s Too Much Jargon

Yes, I know you’re helping to advance the community through dozens of strategic partnerships and providing sustainable solutions via implemented best practices.

That’s wonderful and all, but that doesn’t do much to tug at your heartstrings.

Yes, nonprofit jargon may work for you and other nonprofit pros. But guess what? They’re selling you on a product you need, not a mission for you to care about.

So ignore the jargon, toss out the idioms, and make your words count. Explain your mission and provide a reason for donors to give without cluttering the appeal with well-intentioned but ineffective fluff.  Find nonprofit’s communications voice so to speak!

fundraising message
CCAN’s website fundraising message is real and fluff-free

2. It’s Organization-Focused

If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times: donors give to your mission, not your organization. Yet it’s so hard for many of us to switch to an impact-based fundraising message to ensure we’re conveying this correctly.

If your fundraising message addresses how your organization is helping to solve the problem, or if you’re asking donors to give to address some inexact solution, then you’re missing the mark.

Which sounds better?

  • Help us meet our goal of supporting 10 families
  • By giving $100, you ensure that 10 families from your neighborhood won’t have to go without dinner this week.

Make your community of supporters the hero, and don’t forget to use “you” as often as you can!

fundraising message
North Texas OSU Alumni Chapter explains the impact of a donation on their fundraising website

3. It’s Hard to Relate To

Not every donor will personally connect with your cause– that’s a given. But whether your work involves saving an obscure endangered species, preserving farmland, supporting your local elementary school, or providing wrap-around service for victims of domestic and sexual violence, you must find a way to get your target donor to relate to it.

Since stories are so powerful in helping foster that essential connection, use them whenever possible in your fundraising appeals. Allow your audience to put themselves in your client’s shoes, or see the benefits of your work. Images work wonders, as do videos, and short story snippets.

By ignoring the story, you’re setting your message up for failure. If it’s not relatable, it’s not working.

fundraising message
Beyond Borders’ website is full of engaging visuals and action-driven, inspirational language

4. There’s No “Why?”

If you didn’t care about your nonprofit’s mission, you probably wouldn’t be working there. So, what’s your “why?” What about your organization compels you to spend your days connecting with supporters and fundraising? What makes your nonprofit different from others?

Chances are, your “why” is quite similar to your supporter’s “why.” Remember, your audience isn’t necessarily buying what you do, but why you do it.

Therefore, if you’re not explaining to your donors why they should get involved, then your fundraising message isn’t as powerful as it should be. Your donors know why they should give to your cause, but you need to reinforce that reasoning in your message.

If you need a refresher on finding your “why,” head back to Simon Sinek’s amazing TED Talk : How Great Leaders Inspire Action.

In explaining the “why” don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Infographics and bold statistics (relatable, of course) are effective formats to use.

fundraising message
Testicular Cancer Foundation uses this infographic on their online fundraising website

5. It’s Boring

In our fast-paced world, we’re constantly bombarded with messages from our friends and family, as well as businesses and brands. Unfortunately, it’s hard to stand out in the crowd with so much noise out there, which is why a boring fundraising message just isn’t going to work in attracting an audience and converting them into donors.

Instead of sticking with a plain and simple fundraising message, push the envelope. Use clever songs in your fundraising video like AMIGOS de las Americas did to promote their peer-to-peer fundraiser or try an intriguing hashtag.

Try being funny, sarcastic, daring or bold to get your point across and get noticed in the process.

fundraising message
Who can forget the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. The message was clear: #everydropaddsup

6. It’s Inconsistent

You use multiple avenues to present your fundraising message to prospective donors. Today, you’re reaching out using social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, your website, donation page, emails, direct mail, phone calls, in-person meetings, and so on. It’s a lot to manage, to say the least.

The problem starts to arise when you present your fundraising messages on these platforms and you don’t remain consistent. Advertising different campaigns, focusing on contrasting stories, or using different campaign descriptors can easily confuse your audience.

Inconsistency looks bad on you and erodes your supporters’ trust in your process. It’s better to recycle a fundraising message then confuse your donors.

Fundraising Message “Refresh” Checklist

Summer is the perfect time to refresh your fundraising message, and you should be done just in time for the busy fall fundraising rush. Use this checklist to ensure your offers are connecting with your donors.

fundraising message

Before you push out your fundraising message this fall, give it a quick once-over. A refresh every now and then is good to help you present an effective offer that will get your donor’s attention.

To learn more about perfecting your fundraising message, check out this online guide: Writing a Fundraising Appeal for Nonprofit Crowdfunding

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