Want to know one of the biggest faults of fundraising letters these days? Many writers, in fear of being accused of exploitation, skip the hardship and go right to the happy resolution.
This is not a good idea.
While it’s true that we never want to exploit or manipulate, what if telling the hardship, the struggle, or conflict weren’t exploitation? What if it was exactly what was needed to be told to magnify the reader’s understanding?
Some years ago, Rescigno’s was working with a rape crisis clinic that was dead set against telling the stories of women they served. They felt to do so would, in fact, be exploitative, while their aim was to be protective.
You and I would both agree that being protective is very noble. They didn’t want to force these women to dig back into their past.
One day, someone on the development team asked the women if they’d be willing to tell their story. Their response was immediate: “You bet we would. If we can help one young girl avoid what happened to us, we’ll be glad to tell our story!”
So rather than being exploitative, these women saw their story as an opportunity to help someone else.
Allowing those you serve to tell their stories, including horrific ones, can actually honor the struggle they’ve gone through and help prospective donors care about helping.
Giving your donors a problem to help you solve is a wise strategy. If all you write or talk to donors about is happy endings, they’ll find it difficult to see how they can be a part of the solution. It’ll seem like you have everything under control already and that their help really isn’t urgently needed.
I invite you to go over past appeals with an eye towards asking the question, are you giving donors and prospects enough of the kind of information they need to have in order to care enough to give?
Did you give them enough story to care about the person, the pet, the cause?
Spend time on the tough part of the story. Talk to people your cause serves. Ask them how things were before they received help. I’ll bet many people are just waiting to be asked.
What you hear may very well change how you fundraise.