The easy way to show your donors you like them

by guest blogger George Crankovic. He blogs at The Clued-in Copywriter.

As fundraisers, we’re all about showing donors the love. We want to demonstrate to donors that we like them and appreciate them. It turns out there’s an easy way to do it.

It’s by asking questions. Recent research reported by the Harvard Business School (It Doesn’t Hurt to Ask: Question-asking Increases Liking) backs this up.

In the study, people were assigned in pairs to talk with one another. Beforehand, one person in the pair was told in private to ask nine questions or more, while the other was told to limit questions to four. Afterwards, surveys showed that people who asked more questions were considered more likeable. It turns out that asking questions increases what the researchers call responsiveness, which involves traits like understanding, validation, and care. Exactly what we want our donors to feel.

This is something we can use in copywriting. No surprise, really, since copywriting is like a conversation with donors. Posing a question in copy is one of the best ways to create empathy.

You can use questions in the headline and lead of your letter or email to get donors interested, and then throughout to keep donors reading. A well-placed question is a great way to break up copy and to modulate the pacing of your appeal. Plus, asking a question usually shifts the focus away from the organization and onto the donor, and that’s always good.

But questions have to asked in the right way to be effective. Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind.

  • Avoid questions that your reader can easily answer with a “no.” It probably wouldn’t be wise, after you’re made your pitch, to write, “Are you ready to give now?” Your donor may think, “Forget it, buddy!” Instead, try something like, “Ask yourself, Isn’t it the right time now to make a difference?” Or, “How good will you feel when you give now?” Or “Why am I asking you to make a difference now?” Generally, open-ended questions are better than yes-no questions.
  • Try not to make the questions too self-serving. Of course, donors know you’re writing to promote your organization, but don’t be obvious about it. If you write, “Don’t you think Save the Loony Bird Society is the best charity ever?” your donors are going to roll their eyes. Instead, try something like, “How wonderful is it to know you can do so much for our precious looney birds?”
  • Ask in moderation. Use questions when it feels like they would happen naturally in the conversation, and be careful about going overboard. We want to get donors interested and engaged, not make them feel like they’re tied to a chair in a dark room with a light above their heads.
  • Use tag questions. A tag question is the short question added on to the end of a statement, as in “Please give now, won’t you?” It can be used in lots of ways to soften a statement that might otherwise seem too brash, and make it more acceptable to donors.

This is just one way to show your donors you like them. It’s an important thing to do in fundraising, because when you like your donors, they like you back by donating. And that’s good, isn’t it?


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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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