Improve Fundraising Copy by Adding Urgency

Right NowDuring the Writing to Raise More Money webinar last week (recording available to All-Access Pass holders), I talked about four ways to improve your fundraising copy:

1. Cue an Emotional Response

2. Make the Request Feel Personal

3. Convey Urgency

4. Ask Clearly

At the end of the webinar, I asked participants which of the four they thought would be hardest for them to do, and promised a blog post with some additional advice. Nearly 50% selected “conveying urgency” as the most difficult of these four tasks.

During the webinar, I explained that you want to answer the “Why donate now?” question in your supporters’ heads by conveying a sense of urgency. You can create this urgency in several ways.

Deadlines

The easiest way to convey urgency is with an upcoming deadline. These can be deadlines imposed by others or imposed on yourself.

Examples:

We need to raise $250,000 by September 30 to begin construction.

If we raise $50,000 by the end of the month, it will be matched by ABC, Inc.

Our goal is for every child at Smith Elementary to arrive on the first day of school with a backpack full of supplies.

Our new program will launch on April 15, and your donations today will decide how many families can participate.

Goals

America is a very goal-driven society. We like working toward something.

Fundraising expert Lori Jacobwith suggests letting your supporters know your goal for the year, at the beginning of the year. Then you can keep that goal and progress toward it visible throughout the year in a variety of ways, such as on your website, in your newsletters, in personal meetings, and in presentations. “Wherever you can share the goal and timeline,” says Lori, “share it in fun, engaging ways.” She also suggests breaking the goal into smaller mini-campaigns through the year.

But make sure your goal is clearly connected to something your supporters really care about, not just some internal or administrative goal you’ve set for yourself. As Fundraising Coach Marc A. Pitman said on our Facebook page, “the best calls to action are written to what your audience values. So you really need to know them. ‘We’re below our goal!’ isn’t nearly as compelling as ‘Help us fight assaults on the environment!'”

Examples:

Help us meet our goal of spaying and neutering 1,000 stray cats this year.

Let’s build an emergency rescue fund of $500,000 so we can respond immediately when called.

Short-Lived Opportunities

Sometimes you are presented with opportunities that require you to act very quickly. Use that as a hook. Or sometimes you can offer your supporters limited-time opportunities.

Examples:

We have a special opportunity to purchase this land for a new neighborhood park, but we have to submit our bid by next Friday.

We have a limited number of seats left for this event.

Right Now . . .

You can also convey urgency simply by sharing real-time information.

Examples:

As I write to you today, hundreds of women and children are fleeing the village on foot.

Right now, one of our counselors is on the phone with a single father who’s about to be evicted from his apartment.

What Else?

What are some other ways to include urgency in your fundraising appeals? What have you used before and how did it work?



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  • Kivi, Thanks for making it real with terrific examples. The urgency message also applies to volunteer recruiting or any time we want our community to take action.

  • Bunnie Riedel

    Good advice, it can be so difficult to move emotion from the page to the donor’s heart.

  • Kivi, great examples. My work in charity auctions means I have the benefit of an auction and fellow bidders to create urgency. It can be challenge to turn the urgency into copy. Your examples make that transition easy!

  • Whether it’s nonprofit marketing or anything else in life, we just respond naturally to a sense of urgency. Thanks for your clarification on this critical marketing piece.

  • Wonderful examples. A way to motivate that half of donors whose gifts trickle in over many weeks after an appeal.

    Another reason I think your examples are so helpful is that many new fundraisers confuse urgency with “we need the money now to pay our bills” kind of crisis. That’s not motivating to donors. Donors want to give to something that works, not an organization that is falling apart.

  • Sandy

    Great stuff Kivi! You’re right on that there are so many ways to convey urgency to motivate donors to give.

    Sandy Rees
    Fundraising Coach

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