Why Do People Respond to Fund Raising Letters?

by Michael Russell - Date: 2007-01-14 - Word Count: 490 Share This!

Your fund raising letter must persuade the recipient to take an action that much of humanity thinks peculiar: to give money away.

To accomplish this seemingly unlikely objective, your appeal needs to be built on the psychology of giving. Forget your organization's need. Instead, focus on the needs, the desires and the concerns of the people you're writing to. Your job is to motivate them.

People send money because you ask them to. Public opinion surveys and other research repeatedly confirm this most basic fact of donor motivation. "I was asked" is the most frequently cited reason for giving. Moreover, the research confirms that donors want to be asked. Focus group research also reveals that donors typically underestimate the number of appeals they receive from organizations they support. These facts help explain why responsive donors are repeatedly asked for additional gifts in nearly every successful direct mail fund raising program. When you write an appeal, keep these realities in mind. Don't allow your reticence about asking for money sound apologetic in your letter.

People send money because they have money to give away.

The overwhelming majority of individual gifts to non-profit organizations and institutions are small contributions made from disposable (or discretionary) income. This is the money left over in the family checking account after month's mortgage, taxes, insurance, credit cards and grocery bills have been paid. Unless you're appealing for a major gift, bequest, or multiyear pledge, your target is this modest pool of available money.

For most families, dependent on a year-round stream of wage or salary income, the pool of disposable is replenished every two weeks or every month. That's why most organizations appeal frequently and for small gifts. If your appeal is persuasive, your organization may join the ranks of that select group of charities that receive gifts from a donor's household in a given month. If you're less than persuasive or if competing charities have stronger arguments - or if the family just doesn't have money to spare that month - you won't get a gift. It is as simple as that.

For example, if you write a letter seeking a charitable gift, you may succeed in tapping into the $100 or $200 that person would probably have "left over" for charity during the month your letter arrives. If your appeal is persuasive, that person might send you $25 or $50 - $100 tops - because he decides to add you to the short list of nonprofits he will support that month.

Now you may have the mistaken impression that as a businessman, a snappy dresser and an all-around generous fellow, they have a lot of money. You may even be aware that he has occasionally made much larger gifts to local charities. But you're unlikely to receive more than $50 because that's all he has available right now. Those few larger gifts he gave didn't come from his disposable income stream. They came from other sources and required a lot of planning on his part.

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