Charitable giving is a passionate act. Donors give because they are moved to do so, and they give from their heart, not from their head. Two very important elements make conveying that sense of passion possible: emotion and clarity.

Emotion involves an abstract idea: the desire to make a donor, volunteer, or stakeholder feel something that pulls at the heartstrings and doesn’t let go.

Clarity involves concrete details, planning, and strategy to make sure that the final product has the right taste and form. With that in mind, here are four ways to put passion into your annual appeal for 2013.

Tell a Good Story

Begin your annual appeal by telling a compelling story. What should people know about this organization or cause? Why should people care? For illustrative purposes, consider a community center whose leaders have concluded that a larger and more engaging auditorium is required to accommodate a growing membership.

The message to donors is not that the center needs more money to build a new auditorium! The message is that there is an opportunity for community members to invest in the future of the center in a tangible and meaningful way that meets the needs and expectations of a growing community.

The goal is to convince individuals that the campaign is both intellectually and emotionally essential. This can be done in compatible and complementary ways.

Paint a Picture

Continuing with the example above, the next step is to describe the community center. Discuss how it has been the community’s meeting space for generations. Describe both the ageless lifers who still roam the halls because they feel at home and mix it together with the young parents bringing their children in for the first time to participate in athletic programs.

Create metaphoric and compelling reasons for the existence of the new auditorium and what positive impact the community center makes in the lives of its members and how a new and enlarged auditorium would be a part of that. In some cases, relate what the new auditorium may do for donors at every stage of their life cycle. People who feel a part of the experience should be more inclined to give and to volunteer.

Although our example relates to a new auditorium, it could easily be an annual campaign for an organization of any kind. Use the same tools to help engage donors and volunteers.

Maybe the annual campaign is to underwrite programs to educate immigrants, empowering them and bringing their stories to life. Describe their journeys in becoming part of an American community. Discuss how philanthropic support will help them live and learn in a new society.

Establish Your Reliability

At the same time, there is more to an annual appeal than pulling at the human heartstrings. There must be clarity and substance to capture the attention of supporters at all levels.

The writing must be focused and include a specific call to action. Once stakeholders are compelled to give, they need to understand how to do so, and how they will be acknowledged.

Organizations today need to address various internal procedures and processes, and be ready to discuss them with donors if requested. For example, formal gift acceptance and donor recognition policies must be in place, especially prior to embarking on a major annual appeal effort.

These policies spell out specific measures on how gifts are received, processed, and recognized. Having policies in place can define how and if certain types of gifts will be accepted.

Key Takeaways

With essential ingredients in place, positioning an organization for a fruitful and successful annual appeal becomes much easier. Remember that:

  • Giving begins in the heart, but courses through the brain. You must give people a compelling reason to donate their treasure to you.
  • Paint a picture of the value of what a prospective contribution will bring.
  • Make sure internal housekeeping policies are in place for gift acceptance and donor recognition.
  • The number one reason that people do not support an organization: they are not asked!