2 Imperative Yet Underrated Elements of Effective Fundraising Appeals

By eleventy marketing group

Two Key Pieces of Effective Fundraising AppealsWhat compels people to give? This is the fundamental question that fuels fundraising strategy. What information needs to be delivered in what way to trigger a response?

Of course, if we had a universal answer to that question that worked every time life would be a lot easier for fundraisers. You could just hit the magic button and watch the donations pour in. Alas, it’s not quite that easy.

But some interesting new research has shed light on a couple key pieces of effective fundraising that are often overlooked. We’ll discuss those elements in today’s post and how you can incorporate them into your appeals moving forward.

New Study: The Needs of the Few Outweigh the Needs of the Many

Eleventy’s Vice President of Strategy & Development Angie Moore recently reported on an NPR story on her Fundraising Success blog, Navigating Off The Napkin. That NPR story (which you can read in full here) detailed a study conducted by a psychologist at the University of Oregon.

Here’s how Angie summarized the study in her blog post:

  • Two groups of consumers were in the study.
  • One group was told a story about a little girl who was battling starvation.
  • One group was told the same story but also was given information about the vast problem of starvation and that millions of children around the globe are struggling.

The surprising result: The first group gave twice as much as the second group. The reasoning behind the results was just as surprising: The first group believed they could make a difference, while the second group believed the problem was too big for them to make an impact.

Two Takeaways You Can Use to Improve Your Fundraising Appeals

While this is just one specific study, it points to some important psychological truths fundraisers need to keep in mind. When you construct your appeals, don’t forget to fine-tune these imperative and often-overlooked elements:

1. Scope

This study reveals the scope of fundraising appeals may be far more important than initially thought. It would seem as though showing how vast and troublesome the problem is would compel people to want to act more. But it can actually have the opposite effect.

“When you paint the bigger picture, it could undermine people’s ability to do what they can to help.”

Make the need too big and it will deter action. You want to paint a picture of a problem that needs to be solved, but you don’t want to make it so overwhelming it eclipses the solution.

Scale is key. Show people a personal story and tell them how they can make a positive impact in one clear, specific area to see best results.

2. Hope

Let’s be honest, there’s a lot of doom and gloom in fundraising. That’s because the causes we’re working to solve—starvation, abuse, neglect—are not happy topics. But when we get too caught up in expressing the dire, we overshadow our power to create change.

“People decline to do what they can do because they feel bad about what they can’t do.”

This study shows how hugely important hope is to successful fundraising. People need to have a strong sense of hope that the problem can be solved, and a strong belief that they can help. They need to feel like they have the ability to tip the scales.

Make hope the final message. Show people a glimmer and tell them how they can take action to turn it into a larger ray in the future.

Read or listen to the NPR story "Why Your Brain Wants To Help One Child In Need — But Not Millions" here.