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How to Harness Emotion as You Get Ready for Giving Season

Last week, we introduced a series on four lessons learned from fundraising for real nonprofits in Baltimore. This week, we’re diving into the first lesson: the emotional nature of giving.

We’ve said it before– giving is an emotional act. Donors give when they can feel a connection – when they know they are doing something to help something (or someone) that they care deeply about. They could care less about your goal to reach $10,000 by midnight – what they really care about is ending hunger, ending systemic poverty, destroying the school to prison pipeline, providing safe shelter for women in need, or making recess fun again.

When the Network for Good team went out to help real nonprofits, we learned this first-hand. The team that raised the most did so by leveraging the already-emotionally driven assets of the nonprofit (Wide Angle Youth Media), and sent them out to all of their family and friends. This double shot of an emotional appeal combined with personal connections between the donors and fundraisers themselves resulted in over $2440 in a 12-hour period.

What can other nonprofits take from this?

Tell a Good Story

When the Network for Good team ambushed Wide Angle Youth Media (WAYM) at their office in Baltimore, their initial plan was to create a video in the spirit of what WAYM does. The team quickly discovered that a project like that would take much too long, so they decided to use WAYM’s existing assets.

The team watched one of WAYM’s videos and used that as inspiration to create a giving page.

A successful giving page is one that creates a compelling story as to why the donor should give. To do that, use the five C’s of storytelling:

Core message: The core message is that one thing you want people to remember after hearing your story. When developing your story, ask yourself three questions:

  • What do I want donors to think?
  • What do I want them to feel?
  • What do I want them to do?

The answers will help you uncover your core message and how to structure your email campaign. They’ll also guide you through the logical and emotional sides of crafting your story and engaging donors with the copy.

Connection: Powerful stories are about creating an emotional and authentic connection with readers. This often happens in the beginning of a story (“Call me Ishmael.”)  The same goes for an email. Think carefully about your message’s salutation and the first sentence. How will you hook a reader and get them to stick with you through the end? A great example is personalization. Using a donor’s first name in the salutation (e.g. “Dear Sarah”) is a powerful way to build a connection.

Character: This is often the person writing the email, or it might be a monthly donor talking about why she was moved to offer ongoing support, or the story of a person served by your programs. It could even be the story of a shelter dog finding a forever home. The sky’s the limit.

Conflict: Conflict is crucial in fundraising. It creates a sense of urgency, which encourages people to respond (and give) to help you resolve the conflict. “These villagers have to walk five miles a day for fresh water. Donate now to build a new well.” Conflict and call to action are intertwined.

Call to action: A call to action is the thing you want people to do. A good call to action is very specific and active: Click here to give. Donate now. Use active and affirmative phrases that motivate people to follow through.

Work your network

After creating a stellar donation page, the Network for Good team of fundraisers did everything they could to spread the work to their networks. This meant Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, as well as personal appeals to potential large donors. At the end of the day, over $2440 was raised.

Why did this work? Donors are three times more likely to give when asked by someone they know. Imagine, if you asked 5 people to give, and each of them asked five more people, right away that’s 30 potential donors. And this is perhaps the strongest argument we can give for why you should consider making a peer-to-peer campaign as part of your giving season strategy. More importantly though, it’s why you need to spend time now building up your relationships with the donors in your database already. When you’ve spent more time fostering a meaningful connection with your donors, they’re much more likely to be ready to give come December.

For more ways to build an emotional connection with donors, grab a copy of 7 Ideas to Engage Your Donors Before Year-End.

Check back next week as we dive into the second learning from our day in Baltimore, and how local nonprofits can take steps to overcome the time and capacity challenges that threaten their success.

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