There are plenty of appeals landing in my mailbox and inbox.
I’ll bet it’s the same for you.
I often open them, hoping to be moved, or learn something new. And you know, there’s one characteristic that unites too many of the appeals.
They’re all head and no heart.
They’re built on carefully crafted arguments. Supported with proudly displayed statistics. Focused on proving their organization’s worth.
But appeals aren’t debate club. And you’re probably not getting extra points for a great argument.
The size of the problem
In our urgency to find support, it’s perfectly logical to think about how vast the problem is. How many people are affected. How many people your organization helped last year.
But you’re writing to humans. And humans are emotional creatures.
Those numbers are more likely to turn donors away.
Why? You’re asking them to approach a problem logically. And logically, they probably like their money. Logically, your big problem won’t be solved with their $100. So why not use it to pay the gas bill, instead?
We don’t decide to help because of facts.
You have to reach hearts if you want a gift.
Emotions can be scary
I know, I know. Statistics, logic… they’re easy to contain and control.
We’re taught as children to control our emotions. A two-year-old’s outburst is looked at differently than a 12-year-old’s.
But whatever our age, emotions can run faster than we can catch them.
So I understand the instinct to stick with the facts.
But that instinct will work against you if you’re trying to raise money.
Why we do it
The need to control our emotions can make us nervous about using them.
Won’t we be exploiting the people we help? Or exploiting the donor we need to reach?
And even scarier: to move people with emotion means we need to feel those emotions ourselves.
To do it well means we have to give over to those feelings when we write.
For educated, professional, grown-up people that can feel wrong.
I’m supposed to sit at my desk – where people can see me – and cry about that little boy?
But you don’t have to just throw all your feelings out there like that two-year-old having a meltdown.
You can tame and focus the emotions you need.
Stories give you a great container for those feelings. They can make the same points statistics might. But they make them in a more powerful way.
Stories are how we learn best. Stories connect our history. They tie us together.
If I say “Three Little Pigs”, you’d know just what story I meant, right?
So relax. You don’t have to ugly cry, or scream, or cheer all over the office.
You do need to get in touch with the feelings you need – and then share them with a well-crafted story.
A thousand words
Need a hand communicating the emotional heart of your appeal? Try a great image.
It’s true: a picture can say more than lines of text. Just be sure it’s the right picture.
Does it move you? Ask your office-mates: what does this picture make you feel?
Think about this: we’ve probably all seen the picture of Omran Daqneesh, the little Syrian boy in shock after an airstrike.
What happened when you first saw the image?
Did you immediately consider the facts about the situation in Syria and its international implications?
Or did your heart melt with concern for that child – and by extension, for all the people suffering there?
Open your heart to tell a good story
To succeed, you can’t be afraid of feelings.
There’s no safe place for those of us who write for donors. Hiding in numbers and logic won’t get us the results we need.
It’s emotional work – and it should be!
We need to feel what we want our donors to feel.