How to ask for money

No one likes writing about or talking about money, but for most charities the effective “ask” is the lifeblood of their organisation.

Here are a few tips to help with your fundraising writing.

Start with outcomes

Your donors want to know the impact that their money will have, so always start any writing about money with outcomes and achievements. Psychologists have shown people are much more likely to do what you want them to do if you give them a reason to do it. So never just ask for money without demonstrating – and proving – that their donation is an investment in the impact your organisation has.

Keep it simple

Your organisation may do 50 different things, but when writing about money concentrate on one area only. Too many options and ideas can breed procrastination. If you ask for this money, for this project, by this date, you present the reader with a simple yes or no decision to make right now.

Be honest about core costs

We all know asking for money to pay postage, lighting bills and transport isn’t a great sell. While you shouldn’t try to hide the fact you need to pay for core costs, you can weave them creatively into your fundraising asks.

Write the truth – that these costs are core to making projects successful – rather than an optional add-on you’d rather not talk about:

“Will you give £50 to help support Simon for a week? Your money will go on simple everyday things like milk, soap and electricity. The bus fare for his support worker. The stamps we’ll use to send his housing application forms. Simple things for you, life changing for Simon.”

Turn objections into a reason to support

Before you write, give some thought to the specific objections you might face. Don’t just pluck ideas out of the air; think about your audience, their life situation, their politics, their assumptions.

What reasons could they give for not supporting you? The financial crisis; they don’t trust charities; the Government should be paying for that; one person can’t make a difference; Christmas is coming and I need to buy presents?

For each objection, write a response into your fundraising copy, helping to remove barriers to giving before they’ve even arisen.

“In a multi-media age where suffering across the world has never been brought so close, it’s easy to think one person can’t make a difference. That’s not how Simon sees it. He knows the £50 you give could help him change his life forever.”

Be specific, not general

Adding little details and specific costs for things adds a ring of truth to your fundraising copy.

Not only does adding specifics make your writing more believable, it helps your donors to engage with the outcomes that their money could generate.

Compare:

“Help us to train thousands of young people this Christmas.”

With:

“Your donation could pay the £24 fee Simon needs by 23 January to register for the mechanics course at his local college.”

Write about partnership

Try to avoid phrases that foster the idea that you are doing something on behalf of your donor, with their money. Your donor wants to feel they are making a difference themselves, not outsourcing a problem for someone else to deal with. Use language of working together, partnership or make a direct link between your supporter and the outcome.

Compare:

“Please give us £20 and we’ll put it to work helping people like Simon.”

With:

“Your £20 will help support people like Simon.”

Have a plan

It is likely you will ask for money and write about how it is spent a number of times over the year, and there could be more than one of you writing fundraising material.

A simple plan will help prevent you making simple mistakes like having too many “emergency” appeals in a year, asking for money for a project you’d previously said was nearing completion, using the same case study too many times, or having to dash off your Christmas campaign in a frantic rush.

At the beginning of the year, plan what fundraising asks you will make each month, the amounts you will ask for, how you will ask for them and when you will put your fundraising writing together for them. Build in some flexibility, and get everyone who writes fundraising material to agree to the plan.

It’s a numbers game

However you write about money, however you ask for it, and however you say you spend it, someone somewhere isn’t going to be happy. When you communicate with a lot of people lots of times, you’re bound to get negative feedback.

If your fundraising writing generates the support you’re looking for, the fact that you’re offending or annoying a few supporters along the way shouldn’t put you off.

If you try to please all people, all the time, your fundraising writing will not be effective.

Need help with your fundraising copy? Contact me today.

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