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What can make or break your year-end fundraising appeal?

There are lots of ways to create a killer year-end fundraising appeal.

And there also plenty of ways to ruin it!

Where's the emotional hook in your fundraising appeal?

Where’s the emotional hook in your fundraising appeal?

I see lots of organizations missing the boat when they create that all-important year-end fundraising campaign.

Not everybody has the money to invest in a professionally written and designed full-scale campaign.

But you can study the experts (Tom Ahern, Mal Warwick, Harvey McKinnon, Sarah Durham to name a few) and see what they recommend.

Don’t forget the “emotional hook!”

It’s something big that many organizations miss altogether.

What’s is it? The emotional hook is a theme that provokes an emotional reaction from your donors.

I looked up “hook” in Wikipedia and got this:

A hook in rhetoric is a rhetorical device that gets the attention of the audience and makes them want to listen to the rest of the speech. Hooks can often be metaphors, playing on emotional appeal, and they can also be a series of intriguing questions, a statistic, a fact, or any other rhetorical device that captures a listener’s attention.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hook_(rhetoric)

That’s it:   Something that will get attention. And make them want to listen. And play on their emotions.

So what’s the hook in YOUR appeal letter?

  • Maybe it’s an image.
  • Maybe it’s a theme.
  • Maybe it’s a tagline.
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Here’s the charming truck that brought in so many donations for the Food Bank.

  • Maybe it’s a story.

You’ve gotta have something!

It has to be consistent.

Completely consistent across all your fundraising channels – website, donation page, email appeals, newsletter, direct mail appeal, speeches, presentations, everything you do or say this fall.

It has to be eye-catching.

The image or icon – by itself – needs to be provocative and compelling.

  • Maybe it’s an empty lunchbox.  Or a full lunchbox.
  • Maybe it’s a bald child smiling broadly. Maybe it’s a hug.
  • Maybe it’s an empty chair. Maybe it’s a pair of tennis shoes.

It has to be connected to a real gut-wrenching story.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Sarah Durham, founder of the fundraising and communication firm Big Duck in New York, earlier this week as part of the 2013 Year-End Fundraising Telesummit.

Sarah, being the creative type, shared some very specific elements of the emotional hook that I thought would be helpful to you.

She shared 5 cool tips to help you get it just right:

Sarah Durham of Big Duck shares her tips to nail a terrific emotional hook.

Sarah Durham of Big Duck shares her tips to nail a terrific emotional hook.

Less is more.

Don’t rely on words. The fewer words the better!

Use images rather than words.

Images grab the heart much faster than words do.

Make eye contact.

If you use a picture of a person, it will have more impact if the person is making direct eye contact with the reader.

Connect the image to a story.

The image captures attention. But it’s the story that opens the heart.

Make the story about an individual.

Sarah cited a study in which gifts went up when the story was about one person, not a group of people.

Perhaps it goes like this:

Johnny Smith woke up Monday morning, hungry again.”

Wow, doesn’t that get your attention?

Create a visual narrative that draws the reader in.

You want to keep reading don’t you?  Starting with a story is an amazing technique.

You could go on to say that Johnny lives right here in our community, and his single mother could not find work. You could talk about how many nights a week he goes to bed hungry. Or perhaps how he stuffs his empty backback with cafeteria food at school because he knows there is no food at home.

As you read this, you are forming pictures in your mind, aren’t you? It is generating an emotional feeling in your soft heart (I hope.)

THIS is the way to appeal to your donors’ hearts. And you’d be surprised at the result.

Definitely use your emotional hook to open your donor’s heart.

She wants to be touched. She wants to be part of something important.

2013 Year-End Fundraising Telesummit

And join us at the 2013 Year-End Fundraising Telesummit if you want to raise more than ever in your fall fundraising campaign.
We have an amazing line up of the BEST people in our field who will show you exactly what to do and how to do it. You can find out more here. (The Telesummit is free to INSIDER subscribers.)
Take care and good luck on your year-end appeal!

 

 

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  • Karen

    ..so …another great,easily digested and do- able post ! Thanks Gail!

  • gailperry

    Karen, thanks so much! We are all in a hurry — so making it easy to read and digest is important to me – and I hope to you! Gail

  • Vicky

    Should you use a real story or is it okay to pull together a few people’s experiences and weave them into a narrative? We alwasy try to protect our clients privacy and some of our staff gets very tight-fisted about the people they help forgetting of course that the reason they can help those people is becasue we are fundraising to pay for them to help those people.

  • gailperry

    Vicky – I know this can be a problem with some organizations. I have known of some fundraisers in your situation who created a composite story from elements of different people’s experiences.

    Try that – you can craft your own story as a sample.

    Gail

  • BEATStephen

    Really appreciate this – v concise and clear. Have you seen any appeals which really break the mold and extend beyond the traditional campaign format? I’ve received many letters with SASE’s over the last few weeks and even more email appeals – and they are all mostly the same. To overcome the inevitable “ask fatigue”, I wonder if some are experimenting in other ways?