The power of directly addressing your reader in fundraising

I recently read a really excellent book that doesn’t have anything to do with fundraising: An Elegant Defense: The Extraordinary New Science of the Immune System by Matt Richter (2019).

I learned a lot about the immune system, but I also learned something about fundraising — something I half-knew before, but now understand more clearly.

Elegantdefense

As you probably know, the immune system is one of the most complex areas of medical science. And scientists have been learning a lot about it the last few years.

The book tells that story with a mix of stories: Stories of people fighting illness. Stories of discovery, in the past and recently.

Even so, the information is incredibly complex. More so than most of us non-experts can really keep up with.

So the author occasionally steps out of the regular narrative and directly addresses the reader. Here are some examples:

  • “…congratulations, reader! You’ve been introduced to the language of immunology … one of the most maddening and even counterintuitive lexicons ever contrived.”
  • “Now you know how the T cell and B cell got their names. Still, the breadth of their purpose would take decades to understand….”
  • “What is a fever? You think you know, right? I did too.”

He basically talks to the reader and “coaches” us along in a sort of “meta-narrative” that we are part of.

That’s a great thing to do in fundraising too.

Our topics are rarely as complex as the human immune system, but we can still encourage our readers to stay involved and to connect with the stories we tell by “guiding” them directly. Comments like this:

  • “What happened next will really surprise you…”
  • “Let me repeat that last part for you. It’s very important.”
  • “It broke my heart when I saw her that last time.”

You step out of the story you’re telling and pull the reader in by directly addressing her. You can add color and interpretation that way. Do it well, and it can increase reader engagement with the story. And more engagement leads to more donations.

Your creative writing teacher would probably frown on it. But we’re not trying to please her. We’re hoping to motivate donors to take action.

Give it a try. Let me know how it goes.


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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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