What political speeches can teach fundraisers

by guest blogger George Crankovic, Senior Writer at TrueSense Marketing.

With the political season in full swing, there’s something politicians pursue with almost as much zeal as the election victory itself. It’s the applause line.

Politicians love it when a line in one of their speeches sets off thunderous applause. But they don’t leave this to chance. They use specific techniques — generally, according to one study, Generating Applause: A Study of Rhetoric and Response at Party Political Conferences (PDF), relying on seven rhetorical devices — to get people to react.

Our goal as fundraisers isn’t exactly to get applause, but it’s something like that. Take a look and you’ll easily see how to adapt these for your fundraising appeal.

  1. The contrast. Contrast positive vs. negative. Example: “The fact is that too much is spent on the munitions of war, and too little is spent on the munitions of peace.”
    Applied to fundraising: “One thing is clear: if we spend too much time talking about poverty and too little doing something about it, people will suffer.”
  2. The list. Place (usually) three items in series. Example: “At a time of growing danger for all who believe in freedom, this party of the soft center is no shield, no refuge, and no answer.”
    Applied to fundraising: “People are suffering in poverty zones right now, without medicine, without help, without hope.”
  3. The puzzle. Describe the puzzle or problem, then the solution. Example: “What young people want are real jobs. Many businesses would like an apprentice. So why do they go without? Because the minimum wage laid down by joint negotiating agreement is more than they can afford.”
    Applied to fundraising: “Many people in poverty areas live on $1 a day. They’re struggling. They can’t pay for medicine. But why should they die from treatable diseases when we have medicine in our warehouse? All we need is your support to send it where it needs to go.”
  4. The headline — punch line Say that you’re going to say something, then say it. “This is very important: Passing this motion can help the alliance with the Social Democrats. I’ll tell you why. It removes the last excuse for idealist radicals to join the party.”
    Applied to fundraising: “I want to really drive this point home, because it’s vitally important: Your gift will double in impact.”
  5. The combination. Combine the previous techniques. This example combines contrast and list: “I have a duty that falls upon all responsible politicians to lead others to face reality. Not a duty to feed the people a diet of pap, pie in the sky, and false hopes.”
    Applied to fundraising: “People are in need. They’re hurting, they’re suffering, they’re dying. We have a responsibility to help, not the luxury of looking away.”
  6. The position. Establish a position, then take or refute it. “I mention one example that causes great concern to rural people. And that is the decision of the Post Office to declare certain telephone kiosks in rural areas uneconomical and threaten to withdraw them unless the community council will pay. In my view, this is disgraceful.”
    Applied to fundraising: “The Zika virus is rampaging through vulnerable populations right now. President Obama has asked congress for funding to combat it, but so far, there’s been no action. This is wrong. So, what else can we do? It’s up to donors like you to help people suffering with Zika.”
  7. The pursuit. If applause is delayed, encourage it by reiterating. “We are proud of the people who have sacrificed jobs and careers this last ten years to create the grassroots community-based Liberal revolution that has exploded across the land. We are proud of these people, and we should say so.”
    Applied to fundraising: “You’ve done an incredible amount of good through your gifts. You have saved lives around the world, providing medicine and medical supplies. Yes, you’ve done amazing good, and I’m pleased to tell you so.”


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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About the blogger

Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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