Did You Miss This Golden Fundraising Moment?

by Joanne Wallace

Frustrated donor pulling hair out

I'm sitting in front of my computer, paying my month-end bills.

At the bottom of the pile is an appeal letter from a church-related charity dear to my heart. It's about work they're doing in Syria. By the end of the letter, I'm thinking "I really must send a gift to help."

I'm there with my chequebook in hand, moved by the plight of people I'm now convinced I can help, knowing I have a little money left over. It's a golden moment in fundraising.

I look for the instructions on how to send a gift. Do I visit the website? Write a cheque? What?

I look in vain.

This is the call to action:

"I ask that you respond to this need today."

That's it. No phone number, address or website.

The moment passes. Instead of sending a gift, I drop the letter into my recycling bin and move on to my next task.

Direct-Mail Fundraising Rule #1: Tell Them What to Do

Dear readers, this deserving and hard-working charity broke rule #1 of direct-mail fundraising.

Once you've moved your readers emotionally with great storytelling, don't make them work to figure out how to send a gift. Tell them what to do

Tell them in the letter.

Tell them in the PS.

Tell them in the brochure you've enclosed with the letter ... but remember that brochure may get lost.

Research tells us again and again: if you don't tell people what to do ... they usually do nothing at all.

Direct-Mail Fundraising Rule #2 : Make It Easy

OK, full disclosure. I actually DID make a donation. But here's what I had to go through first:

  1. Google the website (1 click)
  2. Click the "donate now" button (2 clicks)
  3. Stare at a big blue hero photo urging me to "take action," but not telling me how.
  4. Read the menu bar. It's in very small white type on a dark blue background. I'm 54 years old, and it's hard to read. It also consists of six categories, each with a drop-down menu. Finally (persevering rather heroically, if I may say so) I find "Syrian Refugees - take action." (3 clicks)(plus now I'm annoyed)
  5. Now I've got a big white box of text, with two small field boxes I'm supposed to read to choose WHICH Syrian relief project I want to support. I try clicking, but it doesn't work (4 clicks)
  6. Puzzled (and even more annoyed) I click on a small thumbnail with a cutline reading "where needed most"(5 clicks)
  7. FINALLY I arrive at the page allowing me to make the donation.

I tell ya, I had to really want to help those refugees to wade through this website.

Lots of people would have given up after the second click. Maybe they did. We'll never know.

Faith-based charities have to follow the rules too

Also, this is a faith-based charity. I find a lot of them think they're exempt from the rules of fundraising. They're not. Donor psychology is donor psychology, whether your cause is religious or not.

The point is, donors are fickle. They want to help, but they don't want to work for it.

So don't make them. Instead, tell your donors exactly what to do, and make it ridiculously easy for them to do it.





Email Address:


Get regular insights into the
persuasive arts of marketing
and fundraising. Sign up for
email updates of Joanne's
PersuasiveArts Blog

jwallacewriter     follow me on twitter
joanne-wallace     connect on linked in