Nearly everything you’ll ever need to know about charitable fundraising you can learn from this video …
Okay, the video is silly. But it’s more on the mark than you might think.
Fundraising is a direct response specialty. Not many people can do it well because most think that it’s just about asking for money.
But it runs deeper than that. In fact, for charitable fundraising (the type of fundraising to support needy people), there is a formula you can tap into. This formula comes from an instinct to help that is hardwired into human beings.
I wrote an article on this fundraising formula a while back. Please read the whole article to understand the background of this idea. But here’s the gist of the formula:
- Create an urgent situation that involves your prospect. A general, all-purpose cry for help won’t fully trigger the urge. Nor will ongoing suffering or need. Find a specific situation that requires immediate attention and use it to frame your appeal.
- Show how a real person is in trouble and needs help. Don’t talk about masses. You might be appealing for funds that will benefit millions, but you should talk about one person and how that specific person needs help.
- Share details so your prospect can get to know and care about that person. Make the person real by using a name and dropping in relevant facts about his or her life. Help your prospect relate to this person as someone who could easily be a family member or friend.
- Help your prospect visualize and understand the problem. If it’s direct mail or an ad, paint a word picture your prospect can visualize. If it’s television, show the actual situation. Put your prospect right in the middle of it. Yes, you want your prospect to feel emotions, but a sense of reality is more important than a string of emotional words.
- Explain exactly what needs to be done to help. Don’t generalize or beat around the bush. Once you’ve presented a specific problem, suggest a specific solution. Tell your prospect exactly what is needed. Ask for a specific amount or at least for a specific minimum. Show exactly how the money will solve the problem in tangible terms.
- Make your prospect feel the urgency of the situation. Show someone’s life or welfare hanging in the balance. Make it clear that this person needs help now, not a month from now. Talking about past successes is fine, but the current problem must remain unresolved, needing immediate action from your prospect.
- Explain the consequences if help doesn’t arrive in time. When someone fights the urge, the result is guilt. Use it to your advantage. Don’t lecture or chastise, but do be explicit about what is about to happen if the person doesn’t get help soon.
As goofy as the above video is, it does follow this formula pretty closely. But let’s look at the real thing.
This video is from a TV ad called “Shoes” by Children International. It uses the formula, but emphasizes some points more than others, such as explaining what needs to be done. As with all formulas, this one is only a guide. It’s not meant to be followed slavishly. Testing will always show what works best. And this TV spot has worked for years.
FYI: Children International is a long-time client of mine. I had the privilege of traveling overseas to help shoot commercials like this for them. I was so impressed with their operation, I became a sponsor and was able to meet one of my sponsored children in Honduras.
I’m pretty jaded when it comes to fundraising pitches, since I know a lot of them are less than truthful. But these guys are for real. In case you’ve ever thought about sponsoring a child, this is the way to go.
Oh, and the “dirty” story I told you recently … that happend on the same trip as when I met my sponsored child. Yes, it really happened.