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I’m Busy! Why Should I Support Your Campaign?

January 8, 2010

Writing an Effective Plea for Support


One of the most important things you’ll do in preparation to launch your campaign is to write your Plea for Support.  The Plea is the language you will use to communicate requests for support from potential supporters. Your campaign’s success or failure will be built on this foundation. So it’s important to get it right.

The following guidelines will help you.

Step 1 – START OFF ON THE RIGHT FOOT

Develop your Plea for Support based on your answers to the questions posed in my previous post, The Importance of Planning for Success. This will help you focus on the key components of every successful campaign. Here they are again in case you missed them:

  • The Problem: Why you are raising the money? – identify the problem
  • The Goal: What are you raising money for? – propose your solution
  • The Target: how much money do you need to raise to solve the problem?
  • The Duration: How much time do you have to raise this money, i.e., solve the problem (or at least make a dent in it) 5 days? 50 weeks? 2 years?
  • The Strategy: How ill you do it? Using FundScrip? a bake sale? candy bars? cookie dough? scratch cards? citrus? batteries? Or just plain ask for donations?

Step 2 – MAKE ‘EM CARE

Write your Plea in a way that will make potential supporters care about what you are trying to do:

  • Write to them like you are talking to a friend
  • Talk to their issues, their situation, their kids, and their relationship to the problem. In other words, make ’em care!
  • The more you are able to connect with them, the more likely they are to participate and encourage others to participate
  • Don’t take it for granted that potential supporters know what you’re raising money for and why!

Step 3 – THE PLEA – JUST THE MEAT, PLEASE! (or Protein for my vegetarian readers)

Create only one or two sentences for each of the following (use techniques from Step 5 below):

  • Create a catchy headline that will make your potential supporters care
  • Explain the problem in a way that will make your potential supporters CARE by talking about how it affects care
  • Explain the negative consequences of NOT solving the problem in a way that will make your potential supporters care
  • Explain the benefits of raising the funds. How will those affected by the problem be better off? People love to help out when they know the difference they are making!
  • Explain how your group will resolve the problem with the money raised, and how long you have to raise it
  • Explain your chosen fundraising solution – For example, in the case of FundScrip, you might say, “At no additional cost to you, FundScrip transforms your everyday spending into fundraising dollars to support our campaign. That means no out-of-pocket donations, no door-to-door sales and no sympathy purchases. You just pay for your everyday expenses with gift cards bought from FundScrip; and you earn money towards our campaign goal! Easy-peasy.”

Step 4 – UNCLE SAM WANTS YOU! (Well, not really)

Close out by asking directly for support and then provide clear instrutions for what to do next.

  • Thank readers in a way that assumes you have their support
  • Provide them with Next Steps to make it easy for them to get involved
  • Be sure to sign your name and include contact information in case readers have questions or want additional information

Step 5 – MAKE IT STICK

Below are some great tips on making your Plea resonate (or stick) with your readers, taken from Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (ISBN 978-1-4000-6428-1) by Chip and Dan Heath, published by Random House in 2007. (BTW, it’s a fantastic read if you want more detail!) An easy way to remember them is that, taken together, the first letters of each key word spells SUCCESSSimple, Unexpected, Credible, Concrete, Emotional, Stories.

  • Keep it simple – our brains can only keep track of a small number of items at any given time – isolate the core problem and solution
  • Be unexpected – Grab attention by surprising your readers. For example, our primal fear of Sharks makes us think of them as more dangerous than deer. But what kills more people every year – Sharks or Deer? Well, in reality, deer kill something like 30 times more people than sharks!
  • Be credible – if examples and data in your plea are not believable, you will be seen as untrustworthy and your campaign will likely fail
  • Use concrete examples – our brains make the most sense of tangible ideas; avoid abstract concepts
  • Be emotional – Your plea must make people care or they won’t support. They need to feel your passion and enthusiasm. In Summary, if someone doesn’t care, they don’t act
  • Use stories – our brains are wired to understand stories; so people remember and relate to them more easily

Step 6 – IF IT’S WORTH DOING, IT’S WORTH DOING RIGHT!

Receiving a message full of typos and grammar mistakes can be funny, but usually it’s just a sign that the author is careless or not too sharp. Either way it will discourage your prospects. So make sure you dot your I’s and cross your T’s.

  • Keep your plea to about one page or less – remember that your aim is to communicate your Plea succinctly (i.e., short ‘n’ sweet) to everyone who reads it
  • Use a spellchecker and grammar-checker. Poor spelling and grammar will reduce the credibility of your efforts
  • Let others read your Plea and provide feedback; and then make the appropriate revisions before you distribute it to potential supporters

By keeping the above in mind when you write your Plea, you should expect improved conversion rates for your campaigns. Good luck!

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. January 13, 2010 12:01 am

    Hi Shuey, thanks for the question; and it’s a great one.

    My intuition is that any additional media that will enrich your message and make prospects more engaged (i.e. likely to act), such as video or pictures, will improve your Plea and help your campaign. But my more cautious, rational side worries that images (because of their power as “shortcuts” for our brains), if not used appropriately, could divert attention away from your core message and actually produce unintended negative results. So, is a picture worth a 1,000 words? For sure, but make sure they are the 1,000 words you want to use! In other words, images can be a great addition, but proceed with caution.

    I also think the medium within which your are working plays a role in your decision to use images or rich media. For example, on a Web page images are pretty much expected; however, in a letter (depending on print quality and size) images may come across as “cheezy” or “gimmicky,” since images are usually associated with advertising in a print medium, which will distract your prospects from the real message (and action) you are seeking. It’s all in the delivery.

    I’m actually working on a future post about the appropriate uses of various media to solicit support. So check back later on and you may have an even better answer to your question.

    Thanks again!

  2. January 12, 2010 3:50 pm

    Nice post. If my shopping lists were this organized and easy to read, I might volunteer more often to go to the supermarket.

    One thing I didn’t see in the post, though, was the importance of pictures. Your thoughts on the subject? Are they really worth a 1,000 words?

    Shuey
    @nonprofitbanker

  3. January 11, 2010 8:04 am

    Great post! This is a terrific road map or checklist for always being succinct and powerful in your mail OR email soliciations. I had a complimentary post on my blog that readers may want to check out as well. Year-End Fundraising Do’s and Don’ts: http://www.lorijacobwith.com/2009/11/year-end-fundraising-do%E2%80%99s-and-don%E2%80%99ts/

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