10 Ways to Strengthen Donor Calls-to-Action and Raise More Money

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by Robin Cabral

The No. 1 reason donors do not give, aside from not being asked, is that they are not provided with a problem to solve — or at least a problem that they think they need to solve.

A slight tweak or two in donor calls-to-action can make a substantial difference.

Below are steps I recommend to my clients after reviewing their calls-to-action:

  1. Have a call-to-action. I see far too many appeals that never get to an actual ask. These appeals often sound more like acknowledgment letters than they do solicitation letters, so be sure to have an ask.
  2. Having an ask more than once throughout your letter would be advisable. I recommend including three asks per letter.
  3. Don’t save the ask until the end of the appeal letter. I advise starting with “I am writing today to…”
  4. Use emphasis in your solicitation letters, including white space, bold text, underlined text and italicized text.
  5. When you make the ask, make the ask. Don’t state an accomplishment and then ask the donor to fund your goodness.
  6. Give the donor a problem to solve. Donors want to solve other people’s problems. “We are advocating for partner VISA reform on the national level so that your soon-to-be wife will be able to migrate much quicker than what is possible now. We can’t get her here and make substantial VISA processing changes because our grant funding does not support these efforts. We cannot do this advocacy work without YOUR support. Will you help us to reunite families just like yours?”
  7. Be specific in your asks. Don’t leave out the missing details. If you don’t have enough money to maintain your nature trail system, why is that? And how is my contribution going to make a real difference toward that aim?
  8. Don’t assume in your asks. Donors are not specialists in the field. They are not program people. When seeking emergency funding, explain the reality to the donor about what is happening. For instance, please don’t assume that donors know that people in the Philippines cannot get out of their homes to get food due to the fear of being stopped by the police. This explanation makes a difference.
  9. Test links and buttons to see which ones perform the best. Make sure that all of your links and buttons work. The last thing you need is to send your donor to a website with a broken hyperlink. Test everything.
  10. Use the P.S. space as a way to reiterate your call-to-action. And while you are at it, keep your appeal to a solicitation. Don’t try to sell tickets to your upcoming event, or sponsorships to your gala, or ask for emails for a newsletter sign-up. Your solicitation appeal is just that — a solicitation. Keep it focused and concise.

Don’t make your donors work overtime trying to figure out what this latest piece of correspondence is. Make a solicitation letter just that, and place in that solicitation a direct and robust call-to-action that inspires a donor to give to help solve a very real and urgent problem that needs addressing.

Your appeal rate will be boosted, and your client’s needs will ultimately be met.

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