The Role of Quirky, Surprise and Delight in Fundraising Appeals

What is it going to take to open the hearts and wallets of today’s recession-weary donors?

If you are like me, you are watching the trends on donor behavior carefully, looking for that golden key to their hearts.

Today's weary donors appreciate things that are playful and fun.

I’m summarizing all the trends in next week’s FREE webinar: “Where To Find The Donors This Fall. ” I’m including everything from Penelope Burk’s latest update on major donors trends – to Target Analytic’s latest data on online giving trends.

There’s been so much interest in the webinar that I’ve scheduled two additional presentations for Wed. Nov. 2 and Monday Nov 7. Definitely join me so you can fine tune your year-end appeals to today’s donor.  More details here.

It’s absolutely NOT business as usual in fundraising this fall.

Donors are jaded and overwhelmed. What will work?

I’ve been watching people carefully lately, and I’ve hit upon something that is actually getting people’s attention.

And it’s something odd, that you might not think of.

People are responding to things that are quirky, surprising, offbeat and delightful.

They’re paying more attention to something that looks like fun.

When you add “fun” to your appeals and your message, it seems to cut through the din and exhaustion of everyone’s media overload.

Nobody is having very much fun these days.

The economy, working, media, time pressures – it’s all pretty awful. So if you can add playfulness and quirkiness, you can quickly attract interest and attention.

Hence my all time #1 fundraising motto: “when in doubt, throw a party!” Make it fun and you will attract people to your cause like a magnet.

Let me give you some terrific examples of what I mean.

An amazing, charming video by our local SCPA.

The Wake County SPCA created a short video that was a smash hit. It featured homeless animals at the shelter, with staff and volunteers singing along to the old ABBA song, “Take A Chance With Me.”

Watch it – and smile – here.

This is what you call a “lip dub video” (my new vocabulary word of the week).

You take a popular song, and walk through an office with a video camera while different people ham it up and lip synch to the song.

We’ve all seen it on TV, and it’s usually hilarious.

So here you have a cause that is sad, featuring lost animals who need to find a home.

Instead of sending out appeals featuring sad looking puppies and kittens, our SPCA decided to be cheerful instead.

They put a happy, hopeful face on what could be a sad cause. And they hit it big. Their video went viral on You Tube. It got 60,000 hits in just a few days.

So don’t tell me that your cause is too morose or desperate to bring some fun into it.

Why don’t you ditch the formality? Cut the lofty language.

And add some play. Loosen it up. Stop trying to be so dignified!

You’ll be surprised at your result!

Now for example two (I blogged on it earlier this year.)

The little food truck that went “Beep beep.”

Totally delightful appeal!

Here’s a fundraising appeal that comes directly from the cute little food truck. (!)

The truck is asking donors to contribute so it can do what it’s always dreamed of doing – bring food to the needy.

And the little line drawing of the truck going “beep beep” was on the outside of the appeal envelope.

Now you’d open that one, wouldn’t you?

Quirky subject lines have higher open rates.

Last example: I want to share my own personal experience. You probably know that I’m obsessive about my Friday newsletter.

I study how to write a subject line in the emails that will intrigue my readers enough to click and open. And I watch my open rates carefully.

Here’s what I’ve found:

The subject lines with the highest open rates in the past 6 months had (you guessed it) quirky titles:

Quirky is fun!

How to Avoid the Fundraiser’s Kiss of Death

10 Things to Look for in New Board Members (not politically correct!)

Both of these subject lines had something playful about them. The not politically correct post was an indicator that it might be fun and offbeat.

The Kiss of Death post had everybody wondering “what IS the kiss of death for a fundraiser?”  So they opened the email.

Bottom Line: Add some FUN to your fundraising.

Add it to your events, your galas, your mailings, your meetings, and most of all, add it to your fundraising appeals.

Communicate with donors in a way that will enchant them.  Practice being gracious and charming and a little off beat.

It will take you far in this jaded, overloaded world. : )

And it will help your cause more than you know.

Comments? Thoughts?