“Johnny didn’t go to school last week because something was wrong. His mom, Susan, couldn’t quite put her finger on it, but her mother’s instinct told her that he needed help. Thankfully she brought Johnny into the clinic before it was too late.”
Don’t you want to know what was wrong with Johnny? Don’t you want to hear how Johnny and Susan’s story ends?
What if your appeal letter started with a story like this? Your donors would be much more likely to read it and respond. As fundraisers we are good storytellers, we have to be, its how we convey need and impact. But when we write appeals, we tend to bury these compelling stories in the middle of the letter. And unfortunately, that is the section that very few people actually read.
Even worse, we revert to business writing 101 and often start our appeals with “Here at ABC Charity, we help individuals with …” I can almost see your donors’ eyes glaze over as the appeal is dropped into the trash can. We need to capture attention from the start, and what better way to do that than with a captivating and compelling story.
Here are a few other sample opening lines that lead right into great fundraising stories …
- Just the other day, Marci walked into our facility with a big problem.
- Last week, I was walking down the hall and stumbled upon something magical. Six year old LaShonda was sitting outside her classroom huddled over something.
You’ll notice that each of these stories is about one person. And that one person is referenced by their first name. This is a key characteristic of fundraising stories. By talking about just one person and using their name, you allow your donors to put themselves into that person’s shoes. It is no longer a giant problem that their donation can’t change, it is a problem that one person has and their donation can make a huge difference toward fixing it.
Small changes like this can yield huge results for your fundraising appeals. We recently heard from someone that attended our “How to Make Sure Your Next Fundraising Appeal Outperforms Your Last One” webinar in the fall. She put the tips into action with her year end appeal in late 2017. She couldn’t believe it, but the performance of her appeal actually doubled year over year by following the research-based best practices that we shared. It’s not rocket science, but it takes some research and effort. We do our best to simplify that process for you. It’s what we love to do!
What’s your favorite fundraising appeal opening line? Join this discussion in our private Facebook group, the Fundraising Fish Fry. We’d love to hear your tip!
For more fundraising appeal tips, check out our Free Resource Library.