Six Barriers to Successful Fundraising Appeals

27th February 2020

If you want to increase the effectiveness of your charity’s fundraising appeals make sure that you remove these barriers that many unsuccessful appeals have in common:

1. Unsuccessful appeals fail to respond to the reader’s (donors) unspoken questions. 

According to Siegfried Vogele, the father of direct marketing a good appeals writer should anticipate the questions in reader’s mind and answer them clearly in the fundraising letter.

These questions focus on the charity and the work you are asking the donor to support. Here are some questions your donor might be thinking as they read your charity’s appeal: who is this charity? Have I given to them before? How are they addressing me? Where did they find my details? Why should I support their work? How will they make a difference? What is required of me? And, more.

2. Unsuccessful appeals lack of clarity about what they are asking the donor to do.

They contain unclear need statements like ‘with your money, we will impact many lives,‘ or vague and confusing asks like ‘ support our general fund‘ or ‘we urgently need £750,000 can you please give £10‘ – Such statements are not likely to motivate anyone to give. 

3. Unsuccessful appeals lack of cohesiveness

In terms of how all the elements of the appeal package come together, the repetition of key messages, the same fundraising ask, the flow of arguments, etc.

I often see fundraising appeal where the fundraising ask in the letter does not match even the ask in the response form or response forms that are generic or cluttered.

4. Unsuccessful appeals lack authenticity

You know what I am talking about, the kind of appeals where you can take the name of the charity out and replace it with any other charity and it all sounds the same.

In a successful appeal the stories and key messages are authentic and fit with what the donors know about the charity and its work. The same can be said about the person who signs the appeal, he or she needs to be credible people who are known across the organization.

5. Unsuccessful appeals make it difficult for the donor to respond.

Yyou might be smiling now thinking ‘no this is not us’ but take a look at your appeals response forms.

Are they cluttered or easy to use? Do they contain clear instructions about how the donor should fill in the form? What is the font size? Can an older donor read it quickly without reaching for their specs? And, what about online giving, SMS giving or electronic funds transfers – are you offering donors these giving options or not?

6. Unsuccessful appeals have un-engaging copy.

Dull copy that does not touch donors’ hearts, cluttered writing, weak requests.

All these things can contribute to the failure of an appeal to engage with the majority of supporters. However, sometimes the writer’s style, the compelling way he or she uses to share a story, how they move from the story to the big picture issues taking the donor on a journey can catch many a reader’s attention and hold it.

Is there anything else that you would like to add to this list?