Why Not Try Asking for Money?

Why Not Try Asking for Money?

Quick. What is the single most important thing you could change about your fall fundraising letter that would make the most difference in your returns?

Adding a PS note? Nope.

Writing a longer letter? Nope.

Finding a matching gift? Offering a T-shirt premium? Embedding a photo?

Nope. Nope. Nope.

The single most important thing you can do to improve your returns this year is to ask for a specific amount of money.

A few years ago, a client asked me whether I thought her organization could use the same letter as they used the year before. After all, she said, the letter had raised more than the previous year’s letter had. In fact, much more – it had raised nearly $20,000, $6,000 more than the year before.

So I took a look. It was not your typical fall fundraising letter. It was crafted much like a greeting card, with professional, organization-specific graphics and an attractive color scheme. The message inside was short, but it seemed to make a good case for giving, and it “felt good.”

I read the package twice looking for an “ask” and never found one. The closest it came to asking for money was this: “Your gift this year is more important than ever.”

“I think you can use the same design, but why don’t you try asking for money this year?” I asked her. She looked at me like I was from Mars.

So here’s what we did: We used exactly the same package and sent it to substantially the same audience, but we replaced her “non-ask” with the following language:

“Please consider a gift of $100 this year. If you can do more, please be as generous as possible. If not, please find an amount that is more comfortable for you. No gift is too small; every gift counts. And THANK YOU in advance for making this work possible!”

We also changed the response card. Instead of five checkbox amounts to choose from, it just offered two: $100 and “Other.”

That year, the appeal netted $48,000 – nearly two and a half times the year before.

‘Nuff said.

– da

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcomed.

Photo credit: Mount Chapin, Colorado by Walt Kaesler.

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