The US presidential election is next year.
But the campaign is already underway. There’s a lot of fundraising happening that isn’t about charity.
So when one particular appeal caught the media’s attention, I had to look. This email appeal is both entertaining (not in a good way) and educational category (ditto).
Have you read about Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz’s recent email appeal? You can read it all here. It’s about the sacrifices he’s making to run for president and includes lines like this:
>>> Health and sleep: My runoff campaign for the Senate in 2012 took a toll, but now I’m sacrificing even more sleep with long nights and constant travel. And the pizza diet is a staple on the campaign trail.
“That’s politics”, you’re thinking. “What’s that got to do with me?”
Nonprofits do it too – and it’s not good.
One good thing: his email is personal. (Very. I guess he doesn’t like pizza!)
But it misses because it’s all about him. There’s little about his potential donor here, except the ask.
And while I’m all for multiple asks, it’s clear that’s the only part the donor is supposed to play here.
We don’t learn what the donor’s gift will accomplish, besides financing a run. We’re offered nothing inspiring at all.
It’s one long whine.
How often do nonprofits fall into the “you should give us money because it’s so hard and we need it!” trap?
In contrast, here’s an example of political fundraising focused on donors thanks to my friend Pamela Grow. (See another example here.)
In his emails, Al Franken credits the donor with success:
Your support is the fuel that makes Team Franken a force to be reckoned with.
I have incredible supporters like you who stand with me in the face of big challenges.
Put aside politics and think about your own appeals.
Franken’s tone is personal but humble. He spends much of the text thanking the donor. (Flattery does work. So does gratitude.) And he knows the importance of the P.S.!
His appeals work because they make it clear it’s not about him getting things done. It’s about the donor getting things done with him.
Focused on your donor. That’s where your appeals should be.
It’s tempting to talk about how hard our work is. We work long hours. We’re dedicated to our cause. And funding is a constant worry – is there ever enough?
But your donor or prospective donor also works hard. She’s tired. She worries about her own budget.
Solving your money problems doesn’t inspire her. (Your annual appeal goals. Your fiscal year. Economic downturns.)
You’ve got to give something, too.
Offer your donor the chance to do something – with a donation – to improve the world. Give him the chance to be a hero. That’s inspiring.
Whining isn’t a winning strategy. “You owe me” isn’t inspiring.
You have to offer your donors something for them. Will something wonderful happen because of her gift? Or will he prevent something awful from happening?
Will she feel like a hero if she steps in and gives?
Remember no one has to read a single thing you write.
Don’t be a whiner. If you want her to care enough to read, make your donor the hero.