We can do Better than “Needy”

We can do Better than “Needy”


24 October 2023


By David Allen, Development for Conservation


A question I often ask clients preparing for an individual donor visit is: “Why will this person say Yes to the request?


It can be helpful to ask the same question when writing appeal letters and emails. Why will the person receiving this say Yes?

Why would YOU say Yes? Think about it. You get an appeal letter in the mail from the land trust. You like the land trust, so you open it. It asks you to increase your gift this year to $100. Why would you say yes?

Chances are it’s NOT because they “need” to make budget, or even to reach a specific goal number. It’s not because they need to increase pay for their staff. It’s not even because they had a birthday!

Chances are you would say Yes because your gift last year made a difference. Because something you care about got done. Because you now have another opportunity to make a difference – an even greater one.


This change in word choice from “need” to “opportunity” can make a world of difference. And that should guide you in writing your letter. Describe a specific “something” that got done. Use a story to describe it.

(When we tell people a story, they extrapolate on their own from there. No one reads a story and infers that the story was all that was accomplished. It’s just one example of many things that got accomplished.)

Then show them that the outcome was made possible by the gift they made last year, together with similar gifts from hundreds of people must like them. Help us now be there for the next opportunity to make a conservation difference.


There’s a second implication we should pay attention to. That instead of asking for help “so that we can make a difference,” we are offering them an opportunity to make a difference. Instead of the letter bragging about all the things “we” got done last year with their money, we show them all the things “they” got done with their money.

People care a lot more about what they do with their money than what we did with their money. So “show” them.


Here’s something else that can help. Write to a specific person. Think about who you are writing to. If you are writing to “the members” or “the members who gave less than $100 last year,” you letter will taste like cardboard when it arrives.

So pick out a specific person and write to them. The average age of most land trust donors is around 65 or 66. They could be male or female, but writing to women makes sense because often they are the donation decision-makers. They appreciate being outside in Nature.

OK – so who does that remind you of? Pick someone.

As you write your letter, keep THAT person in mind. Your letter will be almost automatically be warmer, more inviting.

More about opportunities to make a difference and less about organization need.


And it will raise more money.


Cheers, and have a great week!




PS: Your comments on these posts are welcomed and warmly requested. If you have not posted a comment before, or if you are using a new email address, please know that there may be a delay in seeing your posted comment. That’s my SPAM defense at work. I approve all comments as soon as I am able during the day.


Photo by Mary courtesy Stocksnap.io



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1 Comment
  • David L
    Posted at 11:02h, 24 October

    Perfect timing, David! Just taking a break from our letter, looking for the right transition from opening to meaning. “Opportunity” is it. Thanks a bunch. Appreciate ya!