A message to all Fundraisers on how to get your team on board with your fundraising appeal. Having started out in the Production department of an international development organisation, I learnt hard and fast on the value of getting departments working together on appeals. These of course are my tried and tested tips.
First things first: get them to understand the power of one
You have finished evaluating the learnings from a previous campaign. You work out the objectives of your next one and how they fit with the broader goals. What programs it will be funding. What stories are available and how you would envision them portrayed. As you sit to further scope the ideas with your Program Coordinators, Comms department and other internal stakeholders, one thing becomes apparent: Everyone has a story they want you to tell.
This is why you need to know the power of one.
In order for a reader to become emotionally invested in your cause, they need one single story they can relate to, feel for, or sympathise with.
Just think about it, if a man came up to you on the street and said, ‘I run a food shelter so I need more food, I also give money to the poor so I need more money, I counsel people over the phone so will you pay my bills?’, you’d probably think, he’s a busy man and should focus on one thing and do it well.
Sure, you got a great glimpse of his entire mission and what he does, but did you stop to hear the need of that one person? The one person in his mind that he’d really like to give money to because they just lost their home and have three kids to look after?
By making your appeal focus on one story, you can encourage your Program Coordinators that you will be able to explain the details of that one story really well. You will be able to connect supporters with the heart behind the program.
For the Comms team, this can also contribute to their larger content plan. You can sit down as a team and map out what times of the year would suit talking about particular programs and stories.
Focusing on one, is never losing the rest.
Education has a place – and it’s not the letter
Yep. I said it. So your team is all on board with focusing on one story and program for the appeal. The writer has started writing… but at first review, it’s the language that has come under scrutiny.
Having once worked as the ‘in-between’ for departments, this used to be my most dreaded part of my role. A team of Program Coordinators usually wanting their programs to be portrayed in the most technically-correct of ways, whilst the Fundraising team wanting it more emotive, more bold but simple to understand.
After years of helping these two teams come to agreements, this is what I found to help:
- Collate everyone’s comments into a document.
- Get everyone in a room for five minutes. Seriously. Back and forth marked-up comments get confusing and cause resentment. People are much more civil and speak nicer in person.
- Ask the fundraiser what they want to say; now ask the Program Coordinator how they would explain the technical language to a 7th grader. Use that.
- If still no agreement, suggest other areas of the appeal that the technical information can be presented (will the Comms team be producing a white paper in support? Will there be a web page that has further details?)
Make clear from the start that your letter will be devoted to the story. It will strike emotion and unfortunately rational thinking only hijacks this. It will not stray from the truth, but it will be deliberate in representing the parts of the story and the program that will show the true need for that program’s funding.
If you have found this article interesting, you may also be interested in best practice tests for your fundraising.