The Language of a Successful Donation Appeal

September 11, 2017

Language

How can you persuade potential donors to give to your cause above the myriad of organizations asking for support? The wording and language used in your donation appeal is key.

A well-crafted donation appeal can be the edge your nonprofit needs to acquire new donors, retain your existing ones, and raise funds for your campaign. A good approach is to utilize words that psychologically appeal to donors, which can lead to higher giving rates.

Put your donors at the center.

Your donation appeals should center around the donors themselves and their potential impact, rather than on your organization. Remind donors of their role in making your organization achieve its mission. Language that emphasizes the ways in which donors are helping a cause is much more effective than language that cautions donors that without their support, the organization will fail.

Fundraising expert Jeff Brooks has a simple suggestion for your donation appeal: make it all about the donor. In fact, the only word in his go-to donation appeal template is “you”.

Make your donors feel good by using the right words to describe them.

Tom Ahern, a successful fundraising appeal writer, says that “You have got to make your donors feel good in order to retain them.” As reported by the New York Times, his appeals utilize the principle of reciprocity, wherein the organization says it has done something good for the donor, and asks if in return, the donor could help out their cause. This strategy appeals to donors that like to see themselves as embodying high quality traits—in this case, fairness.

Professor of philanthropic psychology, Jennifer Shang, compiled the following list of words to consider including in an appeal letter. These are moral adjectives with which donors identify:

  1. Fair
  2. Kind
  3. Compassionate
  4. Helpful
  5. Caring
  6. Friendly
  7. Generous
  8. Honest
  9. Hardworking

But, she cautions, don’t just use all the words on the above list, tailor your to your audience. For example, female donors are more compelled to donate when described as “kind and considerate.”

Communicate a sense of urgency and clear direction.

This comes from the for-profit marketing strategy that something is on sale or only available for a limited time – it drives donors and customers alike to act now.

At the end of your appeal, don’t forget to direct your donors to the necessary next steps to make their contribution, with a link to your donation page.


With Flipcause’s hosted campaign sites, you can easily direct supporters to a webpage with a clear message and call to action.  Find out more by viewing a demo of Flipcause!

What words does your nonprofit include in donation appeals? Share with us in the comments section below. 

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *