Insights
2 min Read
September 8, 2010

One simple tip for writing your year-end appeal

Here at Big Duck we start thinking about year-end appeals in the middle of summer. (We’re weird like that.)

It’s a giant topic. People write entire books on it. Since you don’t have time for that now, we’re going to share just one useful thing with you. It’s a simple question that will help you stand out during the busy year-end appeal season:

Who cares?

This valuable question can serve as a roadmap. So, to answer the question “Who cares?”, what do you need to do?

  • Know your audience.
  • Get their attention and convince them that your cause is important.
  • Do it quickly.

Getting attention with copy means short, compelling prose. It means email subject lines that inspire the recipient to click; direct mail that entices with a stellar headline (or envelope teaser); copy that crackles and pops off the page or screen with more excitement than the electric boogaloo.

This is all easier said than done, of course. So let’s go back to the original question: Who cares?
Well, start with yourself. You care about the issues your nonprofit addresses, right?

Okay, then. Why do you care? Free associate. List all of the reasons. Keep free-associating until you get to the heart of it. Some of your answers will be logical, some emotional, some academic, and some downright visceral. Write down everything that comes to mind, even reasons that may seem ridiculous or bad. There are no bad ideas in a brainstorm. Spend at least 30 minutes free-associating about why you care.

Set your list aside for at least an hour. If you have time to leave it for a day, even better. The important thing is that you come back to it fresh.

What stands out? What is immediately compelling? There’s your hook.

Once you have your hook, don’t overwhelm your readers with information. Maybe there’s one anecdote that embodies your hook. Perhaps there’s one compelling statistic that will bring it all home.
Whatever it is you write to support your hook, be sure to keep it short. Donors are busy people–never more so than during the holidays, when they also happen to be receiving year-end appeals from every other organization they’ve ever been in touch with.

Your goal is to inspire them to write you a check or make an online donation. Taking a step back and reminding yourself why you care will take you a long way toward convincing your audiences why they should care too.

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