Doing Well by Doing Good – Profit & Fulfillment in Fundraising

Imagine getting a check from a client – a substantial check that truly signals you're a topflight copywriter.

Now imagine how you would feel knowing that you've also earned 20 … 40 … 100 times that amount for an organization that does work you believe in.

You (and your words) can do that … when you write for the fundraising market.

The fundraising market is not much different from "sales" markets. But there are a few crucial differences. And understanding them can help you make big money for your nonprofit clients (and yourself).

We asked two acknowledged masters in fundraising – Jerry Huntsinger and Kimberly Seville – to reveal a few of their secrets. Some of the following advice comes from Kimberly's presentation at this year's FastTrack to Success Bootcamp … and some comes from two articles that Jerry wrote for "Fundraising Success Magazine" (

Secret #1: You're Not Selling a Product

The biggest difference between a traditional sales letter and a fundraising letter is that you aren't selling a product. You're selling an idea.

But this doesn't mean your potential donor doesn't get any benefit from what you're selling. She does. You have to sell her on the idea that when she donates money, she will benefit from it in some very real and important way. And to find those benefits, you'll have to dig deeply into her core complex.

Most of her benefits will be intangible. But they will satisfy deep emotional needs that cannot be fulfilled by a product.

Secret # 2: Get Your Donor Involved

You've received many appeals from nonprofits that enclose mini-gifts (address labels, for example). And from your personal experience, you know that this can be very effective in getting a prospective donor involved from the start.

As Jerry puts it, "As her hands are ripping the envelope open and unfolding the contents, if she sees something inside that further titillates her – if there's something inside she can feel with her fingers and turn over and look at – then you've got her attention."

But you don't have to use a gift as a motivator … which is good, since many nonprofits hate doing that.

Instead, use an involvement device that gets her hooked on the cause. Kimberly used a very successful one in an appeal from Christopher Reeve to support spinal injury research.

When she interviewed Reeve, he told her how cards that he got from around the world buoyed his spirits. So in the appeal, she enclosed a card the reader could fill out and send – through the nonprofit – to a spinal injury victim. As you can imagine, it was very effective.

Secret #3: Your Reader Is Always Concerned With "WIIFM."

"What's in it for me?" (WIIFM) This may seem out of place when we're talking about asking someone to donate money to a worthy cause. But it's still your strongest motivator.

No matter what kind of sales copy you're writing, your reader is always going to be most concerned with WIIFM. And your prospective donor is no different.

  • If you ask him to donate his time, he will feel needed.
  • If you ask him to become a member of your organization, he will feel wanted.
  • If you ask him to join an exclusive group of donors, he will feel privileged.
  • If you tell him that he can help solve a problem with his gift of money, he will feel important.

The trick is to say these things in a way that touches him personally and deeply.

Secret #4: It's Not About the Writing

Not entirely. Like any sales letter, a fundraising appeal is about the ENTIRE PACKAGE – from the envelope to the order device. But when you're dealing with donors, you're trying to convince people who are a bit out of the ordinary. So you have to do some things a little differently.

For instance, 90% of all direct-mail recipients read the P.S. first. So you seldom give the price of a product in the P.S., because you don't want to give your prospect "sticker shock."

But Jerry recommends doing just that in the P.S. of a fundraising appeal. "Tell the reader exactly what to do, how much to give, and how to use the reply device."

His example: "P.S. Enclosed is your World Hunger Day reply card. Please check the $10 gift box and fill in the blank line if you wish to give an additional amount. Then mail the reply card back to me – before March 20 – in the postage-paid envelope I am providing for you. And thanks so much!"

Writing for the fundraising market is not for everyone. But if you learn the secrets Jerry and Kimberly have used to raise tens of millions of dollars in donations, you may find it to be your most enjoyable … and profitable … copywriting niche.

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Published: October 25, 2004

1 Response to “Doing Well by Doing Good - Profit & Fulfillment in Fundraising”

  1. I believe I've found the avenue which will allow me to represent companies that believe as I do - that the earth needs to be carefully attended to, that serious action needs to be taken by all of humanity, to save it from extinction. I am "applying" to any non-profit org. that needs the assistance of a veteran copywriter...Obviously I am an idealist in search of a more productive, satisfying income.

    Guest (Neill)

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