When it comes to your social good crowdfunding campaign, you have one main goal in mind: to raise money for your cause. But, take a brief look online and you’ll quickly realize that there’s an overwhelming amount of worthy causes getting in front of your supporters every single day.
So, how do you cut loose from the pack and distinguish yourself as a worthy cause deserving of your supporters’ attention, and most importantly, dollars? An effective fundraising appeal will do most of the work for you.
Your fundraising appeal is one of the most important parts of your nonprofit crowdfunding campaign. Why? Quite simply, it’s the heart of your cause, the meat and potatoes of your mission. It’s the crucial part when you not only explain what your goal is, but why your supporters should feel invested in it.
Regardless of how well you know your crowdfunding campaign, it’s important to keep in mind that your audience may know very little about it. And, while appealing graphics and a killer blog are great additions, you need a spot-on fundraising appeal in order to inform, motivate, and connect with your targeted supporters.
Feeling overwhelmed yet? Have no fear! In this online guide, we’ll teach you how to craft an informative and inspiring fundraising appeal that lays the groundwork for a successful crowdfunding campaign.
Before we can jump into talking about how to craft an effective fundraising appeal, you first need to have a good handle on the basics. You know, the nuts and bolts of what a fundraising appeal is, and what it does for your cause. So, let’s address some common questions about appeals and exactly how they can bring you one step closer to your crowdfunding goal.
What is a fundraising appeal?
Noun: a serious request for help, support, etc.
That’s right; at its most basic form your fundraising appeal is simply a plea for monetary backing from your supporters. And, while we don’t recommend getting down on your knees and begging for cash, your appeal does need to be a firm request for action.
Where does a fundraising appeal appear on your crowdfunding campaign?
Appeals can come in a variety of mediums. Perhaps you’ve put together an informative video explaining your mission, or you’ve authored a real-life narrative that provides some background of your campaign.
Or, like the Neverthirst example below, perhaps you’ve made use of both a video and powerful, descriptive copy detailing your inspiration and the root of your cause.
Regardless of what mediums you employ for your fundraising appeal, it should always be one of the first things your audience’s eyes are drawn to when they visit your crowdfunding page. Typically, this means it will all appear in the “summary” portion of your page. Keep in mind that your main goal is to have supporters learn about your mission and immediately feel inspired to donate. So, everything they need to know about your campaign should be front and center as soon as they open your site.
Who are you talking to?
In order to craft content that effectively resonates with your audience, you need to know a little bit about them. So, it’s important to do some digging to determine your target audience and figure out exactly who you’re talking to.
After determining specific characteristics and interests of your desired audience, pick a particular person that fits this mold. Who embodies these characteristics, interests, and concerns? Your best friend? A church ministry leader? A Supreme Court justice?
Pick a particular person that you think best fits the audience and the tone that you’re aiming for. Then, whenever crafting any written communications for your campaign, imagine that you’re talking directly to that person. Writing with a specific person in mind not only helps you perfect your desired style, but also keeps you from coming on too strong with the sales tactics.
What voice should I use?
Determining the overall voice and style of your fundraising appeal is another basic factor to identify when crafting your request. Before ever putting pen to paper or hitting keys on your keyboard, take some time to sit down and figure out your approach.
There are numerous different voices you can assume for your campaign’s written communication, including:
- Educational and formal
- Friendly and conversational
- Upbeat and optimistic
- Emotional and disheartening
Sorting your voice out ahead of time will not only ensure that you’re getting your point across the way you want, but also that you’re keeping a consistent voice across all of your content platforms.
Another thing to consider when identifying your voice for your appeal is how you will effectively phrase a firm request without sounding too pushy or “salesy”. Because appeals are essentially pleas, it can be difficult to strike a balance between promoting your cause and sounding like a used car salesman.
You may think that this would be simple, as you aren’t technically selling anything. But, that’s not necessarily true. While you aren’t selling a tangible product or service, you are trying to sell your supporters on the purpose of your mission.
Is an effective fundraising appeal really that important?
Do you want the short answer? Yes! As the Neverthirst sample we used above demonstrates, a powerful and effective fundraising appeal can have a huge impact on the success of your crowdfunding campaign.
Neverthirst established a goal of raising $20,000 to provide Nepal families with basic essentials. Did they meet that goal?
No. They exceeded it by over $5,000!
Now, you may not be able to attribute their success solely to their appeal. But, it’s important to recognize that their effective appeal did play a role in motivating their supporters and garnering more donations. So, putting the legwork in to craft an inspiring request will definitely pay off!
Structuring Your Appeal
Now that we’ve covered our bases and learned what a fundraising appeal is and why it’s important, let’s move on to piecing together the different essential parts of your fundraising appeal.
Elements Of A Fundraising Appeal
Every appeal will contain the following three elements:
- Background Information
- Descriptive Text and Emotion
- Call to Action
Let’s take a minute to discuss each of these elements in a little more detail.
1. Background Information
In order for your audience to feel inspired to donate, they first must comprehensively understand the nuts and bolts of your campaign. What are the big things they need to understand?
- Your back-story (i.e. why are you doing this?)
- Your goal and desired outcome (i.e. where is their money going?)
Your fundraising appeal must explain all of this to your supporters in a way that’s concise and effective. But, how do you ensure that you’re getting right to the heart of your campaign? Start with an outline!
Remember when you would have to analyze stories in elementary school in order to identify the who, what, where, when, and why of a story plot? Approach your appeal outline the same way.
- Who: Who are you? Who is your campaign benefitting?
- What: What is your goal or your mission?
- When: When is your fundraising appeal happening? When will donations be put into use to make a difference?
- Where: Where is this campaign occurring?
- Why: Why are you doing this? What inspired you?
It may seem simplistic, but breaking down your appeal into these bite-sized nuggets will ensure that you’re giving supporters all of the information they need in a way that’s uncomplicated and direct.
2. Descriptive Text And Emotion
Information is one thing, but inspiration is a totally different ballgame. In order to motivate your audience to donate, you need to give them a reason to feel moved by your mission. Using descriptive text, multimedia, and emotional appeals will draw your supporters in and allow them to feel connected to your cause.
You’re likely familiar with that heartbreaking ASPCA commercial that shows animals in tragic situations while Sarah McLachlan somberly croons. But, don’t be tricked into thinking that making your audience feel guilty is the only way to motivate them to donate.
Instead, tell a powerful story that your audience can connect to. You likely remember the Google Chrome “Jess Time” commercial that was part of the brand’s “The Web is What You Make of It” campaign.
This commercial is fantastic for so many reasons. First, it touches on a concept that resonates with many people: human relationships. Even if you didn’t share a particularly close bond with your own father, you likely have at least one special person in your life that is your biggest supporter and cheerleader.
Secondly, this commercial touches on a sensitive, heartbreaking topic without ever seeming contrived, forced, or disingenuous. The minute-long advertisement tells the story of Jess, who is navigating her freshman year of college. While away, she uses numerous Google products to stay in touch with her father, Elliot. Throughout the commercial, it becomes clear that they’re grieving the loss of a wife and mother. But, the clip does so in a way that’s endearing and heartwarming. It inspires a positive emotion and connection. See? You don’t need to bring your audience to tears with images of sad puppies in order to connect with them.
You can also make use of impactful videos, descriptive text, and emotional stories to turn your supporters into the “hero” of your cause. Here are a few ways that you can transform your readers into optimistic activists:
- Tell your story in second person.
- If your cause is based on participation, showcase past participants and connect their effort directly to a solution for the problem.
- Emphasize how much you need them, and how much their support will help your cause.
As the below UNICEF example demonstrates, you can also employ statistics to further illustrate the need for your campaign and instill a sense of purpose in your audience. Instead of focusing on dire circumstances and heart wrenching statistics, this figure perfectly illustrates the positive outcome that results from providing support to an organization.
However, use statistics somewhat sparingly. Keep in mind that you’re trying to appeal to emotions and not necessarily logic. Throwing too many numbers and figures at your audience can cause them to feel disconnected or overwhelmed.
3. Call To Action
Arguably, your call to action is the most important piece of your appeal. It’s the crucial part that instills a sense of urgency and motivates your supporters to take action. So, you need to make sure you take the time to refine and polish your call to action.
Did you know that according to Dunham+Company, 36% of nonprofits send e-mails with multiple conflicting calls to action? This is confusing for your audience, as they can’t quite ascertain what step you want them to take next. Should they donate money or like your Facebook page? Should they support your cause or read your blog?
Your call to action should focus on one specific goal, use powerful actionable language, make supporters feel like you’re talking directly to them, and encourage immediate action.
Bonus: Check out more tips for crafting an effective call to action in this post.
With all of the talk of necessary elements that you have to include in an effective appeal, it can be easy to feel like your fundraising appeal needs to follow a particular format or fit into a cookie cutter mold. While it’s great to have a guideline to keep you on track, a truly effective appeal will be tailored to your campaign and mission.
It’s all about finding what works best for you and your specific campaign. However, it can be helpful to start with a basic outline and fill in customized elements from there. Here are a few sample structures you can follow when crafting your fundraising appeal:
Structure 1: Start with a Bang
Format: Call to Action > Background Information > Call to Action
Using this structure, you’ll start your appeal immediately with a call to action, and then follow up with background information about why you’re making this request. It’s important to then reiterate your call to action at the very end of the appeal, so that your audience is reminded of their next steps.
This Shower Strike example is a great sample of how to jump right in with a call to action, and then segue into the background information of your cause.
Structure 2: Lay The Groundwork
Format:Background Information > Call to Action
This is a fairly simple and straightforward structure for your fundraising appeal. Using this structure, you’ll start your appeal with background information or an emotional story about the need for your campaign. Then, you’ll end with a powerful call to action.
This Higher Education Readiness excerpt is a fitting example of how to set up your story, and then transition into asking your audience to provide support.
Structure 3: Pose a Question
Format: Ask a Question > Background Information > Call to Action
Using this structure, you begin your appeal by asking a question. This question doesn’t need to be complex, it’s just a way to get your audience to immediately connect with your mission.
- Start by asking something like, “Can you imagine not knowing where your next meal is coming from?”
- From there, move into your background information with a leading statement like, “Unfortunately, this is reality for…”
- Following your background information, conclude with your call to action.
Polishing Your Appeal
Having great content is important. But, if it’s difficult to read, riddled with typos and grammatical errors, or poorly formatted, your message simply won’t shine through. So, when the meat and potatoes of your appeal are all hashed out, it’s time to polish things up!
Here are a few things to consider when putting the finishing touches on your appeal.
Of course, you need your fundraising appeal to be thoroughly informative and detailed. But, you don’t want to overwhelm your audience with something as long as War and Peace.
In most cases, you want your appeal to be descriptive and inclusive, without being longwinded. Try to keep your appeal under a total of 600 words. Always remember that your supporters are busy, and they’re probably less likely to read something that looks like it will require a large time commitment. Beginning with the who, what, where, when, and why format that was mentioned earlier in the guide will help you to narrow your focus and craft a concise appeal.
Here are a few other tips for keeping your appeal succinct and your wordiness in check:
- Once you’ve finished drafting, read through the appeal at least three times, paying close attention to every sentence.
- Eliminate any words or phrases that don’t add any value.
- Also ensure you aren’t using overly flowery language or industry jargon that your audience won’t understand.
Make It Easy To Read
An “easy to read” appeal doesn’t only refer to the actual content. It also means that your entire appeal needs to be simple to skim and visually pleasing.
First, it’s important that you leave enough white space so that your supporters aren’t overwhelmed with a page that’s packed full with text. You may feel like you should fill every last inch of your available space. But, maintaining balance between text and empty space will make your entire appeal much easier to look at.
On that same token, you should break up large walls of text using compelling photography, infographics, or related video clips. This splits your content into smaller, more manageable sections that your supporters can easily scan.
Proofread, And Then Proofread Again
We’ve all read our fair share of copy that is littered with typos, spelling mistakes, and grammatical errors. What sort of impression do you normally walk away with? You likely think of that organization as sloppy and unprofessional.
An appeal that’s filled with obvious blunders won’t do you any favors in the eyes of your supporters. So, thorough proofreading is absolutely necessary for ensuring you’re giving your very best first impression.
Proofread your summary a few times yourself to catch as many errors as you can, and then pass it along to a wordsmith friend of yours — particularly one that knows very little about your cause. They’ll be able to correct any mistakes that your eyes may have skipped over, as well as point out any places that are tough to understand or require more clarification.
Tip: Read your appeal aloud to yourself. You may feel a little crazy, but it’s a great way to catch any awkward phrases and ensure that your appeal flows the way you want.
Connecting With Supporters
Have you ever known a friend that seemed to only appear when they wanted something?
Perhaps you only heard from them when they needed a ride to the airport or help moving into their new apartment. They never got you a birthday card or checked in just to see how things were going. No, they only popped up when it served them.
How did you feel about this friend? Did you feel excited about helping them when they needed it? Or, did you feel more used and taken for granted? If you’re only connecting and conversing with your supporters when you need something from them, they’ll undoubtedly start to feel taken advantage of.
Trust us — you do not want to be that friend who’s constantly begging for rides.
So, it’s important that you consistently make an effort to engage with your supporters, even if you aren’t currently fundraising. Then, when it comes time to put your fundraising appeal into action, you’ll have a captive audience waiting to receive your message. We’ve already discussed connecting on an emotional level.
But, here are some more actionable ways you can form quality relationships with your audience.
Connecting With Conversation
It can be exhausting for supporters to constantly feel like they’re being talked at, rather than talked with. When people comment on your blog posts or give you feedback about your campaign, don’t just ignore them. View this as an opportunity to further engage with your supporters.
Not sure how to best utilize conversation to connect with your audience? Try a few of these methods:
- Set aside time each week to read any comments or feedback that you’re receiving, and craft thoughtful responses to these people. You may not have time to respond to every comment, but leaving a few public answers to your supporters shows that you’re attentive and taking their input and thoughts into consideration.
- Encourage discussions about your mission by concluding blog posts with a question to your supporters. This is a great way to involve your audience in your campaign, as well as build an actively engaged community around your cause.
- Never hesitate to blatantly ask your audience for their input either, especially if they’ve already shown an interest or involvement in your campaign. As Molly Heacock, Community Relations Director for CARE for Aids explains, “Each of our centers in Kenya has a core group of financial supporters. So, when we create fundraising pages, we run the copy by that group and get their feedback before publishing. Having the opinion of people who already support the project helps us reach those who might potentially support us.”
Connecting With Social Media
In today’s digital society, social media absolutely needs to be part of your marketing plan for your crowdfunding campaign. Not only is it a huge outlet for promoting your mission, but also an excellent platform for interacting with your supporters.
According to Waggener Edstrom, 55% of people who interact with a cause via social media feel inspired to take further action. Of those inspired people, 59% of them move on to donate funds to the cause. Pretty impressive numbers, right?
Similarly to comments on blogs, you don’t want to ignore tweets and Facebook posts that are directed towards you. Instead, reply back to these people to demonstrate that you’re actively engaged with them, even if they’re not talking directly about your fundraising efforts.
Take a look at this excellent Twitter response from Invisible Children to one of their supporters. They’ve used their reply not only to interact with a supporter, but to also hint at something exciting they have in the works:
The beauty of social media is that it’s all about conversation. So, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you need to wait for supporters to contact you. Be proactive and reach out to people that are posting about topics relevant to your mission. Here’s a great example from the American Red Cross. They weren’t tagged or directly mentioned in this person’s tweet at all. However, they used her post about the weather as a chance to interact with her and promote weather safety, a key goal of the Red Cross.
Maintaining A Connection
Establishing a solid connection with your supporters is great. But, you can’t let it fall by the wayside as soon as your current campaign comes to a close. Chances are, you’ll need to fundraise again in the future. And, wouldn’t it be nice to have a captive audience of interested supporters to get the ball rolling when you do?
Nurturing your relationship with your audience — even when you aren’t currently fundraising — is key for maintaining and continuously growing your reach. There are numerous ways you can continue to touch base with your supporters after they’ve donated. Of course, the social media tips that were outlined above can all be employed to continue conversing with your audience. However, you should make use of an e-mail newsletter to continuously keep your supporters informed about what’s going on with your nonprofit.
- Immediately after supporting your cause, your donors should receive an e-mail thanking them for their support and reaffirming the great things their donation will be used for.
- At the close of your campaign, send another e-mail informing them of the results of your crowdfunding efforts.
- Then, as you use your donations for their intended purpose, send occasional e-mails including stories and pictures of your great work.
Supporters don’t want to feel like they just threw money at a cause and then were left in the cold. They’ll appreciate seeing how their donation was used, and utilizing e-mail blasts is a powerful tool to keep them informed. Just ensure that you don’t use them too frequently, or your audience may feel spammed.
Measuring Your Effectiveness
When you’ve put so much work into crafting the perfect fundraising appeal, it’s only natural that you want to know how effective it is. As you might assume, this can be a difficult indicator to measure.
Because your fundraising appeal works in collaboration with so many other aspects of your campaign — social promotion, word of mouth, etc. — it’s hard to attribute your campaign’s success to just your fundraising appeal. But, here are a few indicators that will help you get a handle on how effective your appeal is:
Amount of Donations
Obviously, increased donations will be the biggest evidence of a successful campaign. Perhaps you fundraised for this exact same purpose last year. This time around, you tweaked your appeal and saw donations increase exponentially. Or, maybe your campaign was off to a slow start. Then, after a few additions or changes to your appeal, things really started to take off.
While your effective appeal can’t take all of the credit for a spike in donations, it certainly helped your cause!
What sort of feedback are you getting about your campaign? Are there many comments or e-mails coming through from supporters letting you know their thoughts? Don’t hesitate to continuously make changes to your fundraising appeal throughout your campaign based on supporter feedback. Your appeal isn’t set in stone, and you’re only doing yourself a favor by making improvements to it.
Don’t be afraid to take a page from Care for Aids’ book and actively seek out input about your message. If you have a core group of supporters, specifically ask them for their opinions and feedback. This will be a great way to gauge how effective your appeal is, before launching it to the masses.
Remember the phenomenon of KONY 2012? The mission to raise awareness about war criminal, Joseph Kony, absolutely blew up on social networks. The Internet was plastered with Kony-related posts.
Social sharing is a huge indicator of how well your appeal resonates with the public. If people are organically sharing and talking about your campaign, they obviously feel moved by your mission. Plus, you can’t beat the additional promotion!
Wrapping Up: Fundraising Appeals Are The Key To Your Success
Your fundraising appeal needs to pack a major punch. It has to educate your audience about your mission, connect with them on an emotional level, and inspire them to donate their hard-earned money to your cause — all in 600 words or less. So, sitting down to draft such a crucial part of your crowdfunding campaign can be intimidating.
Let’s conclude by wrapping up some of the big things you should remember when crafting your fundraising appeal:
- Before writing, identify the voice that you need to use so that you’re communicating in a way that’s cohesive and targeted to your supporters.
- Include basic information about your cause, descriptive text and emotion, and a firm call to action.
- Make sure to proofread your appeal carefully, as well as break up large blocks of text with multimedia and appropriate white space.
- Utilize social media and e-mail blasts to establish and maintain a strong connection with your audience and receive feedback about your appeal.
While your fundraising appeal is incredibly important, there’s no need to feel overwhelmed by the drafting process. Put these tips to work to craft an appeal that’s informative, powerful, and ready to spread the word about all of your great work!
Like what you read in this guide? Here are some more great resources you might be interested in:
Title Photo: Markus Spiske