Direct Response: Your Messages Doesn’t Have To Woof

Few people can resist saving a puppy. What happens when your organization doesn’t lend itself to something with floppy ears or little kids playing with an 8-week-old basset hound?

You can still make a solid case for support via direct response fundraising without those two cute elements. Some examples were discussed during a session titled “No Kids, No Dogs: How To Create Emotional and Powerfully Persuasive Fundraising,” during the recent ANA Nonprofit Federation conference in Washington, D.C.

The session panelists were Hilary Baar of the National Trust for Historic preservation, John Graves of Eidolon Communications, Liz Murphy of Beaconfire RED, and Emmy Nicklin of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Here are some of their insights.

Make it personal. Potential members or donors will react better when offered a statement such as “I save a place for you” versus a dry mission statement about historic site preservation. Elements of a persuasive case for giving more times than not isn’t your mission statement. You need to tap into a donor’s known affinities, thank them and allow them to share their contribution.

Storytelling is key to a donor’s reaction. People’s real life struggles lend drama and credence to your mission and help illustrate the complexity of your work. To get that done, explore new formats to tell your story or stories. Images, format and audience matters, according to the panelists.

    There are three important principles of visual communications, according to the panelists:

  • Humans are visual first, verbal second; Good visuals make people feel first and think second; and, Visuals evoke emotion and get people to take action. Focus on the why and not the what and how.
  • While it is about the donor and mission, fundraisers need to use their own emotion. Panelists urged those in the room to push aside anything that stands in the way so you can connect directly with the people, places or things counting on your mission. It’s alright to get angry to excited because your donor will, too.
  • Everyone needs a hero. Spokespeople as champions give your issue and organization credibility and help you reach new audiences. The person does not have to have a famous face. The panelists explained that causes take on new dimensions when they’re extolled by a field worker, department head, beneficiary or board member.