A donor sees your appeal online, or receives it in the mail, and sits back to think about it. You want to encourage him to make that gift NOW.
Why? Because if he doesn’t do it now, when the appeal story has just captured his attention, when his emotions are engaged with reference to your story, when that first urge to do something to help is most alive, then he may never do it. He may get distracted and never come back to the appeal; he may come back at a later time, when the appeal will not be as fresh and may not engage him emotionally, or may lead him to a lesser gift than first intended. He may be approached by someone else’s appeal that will overshadow yours. Just as the car salesman wants to close the deal today, you want your appeal to “grab” the reader and lead him to act immediately.
What can you do to increase the percentage of donors who act NOW? Here are some ideas:
When possible, build your appeals so that donors will sense that you’re close to the finish line and their contribution is needed to put you over the top. This is the idea behind the fundraising thermometer and more recent tactics to show progress. If your year-end appeal is mailed October 1, the donor doesn’t feel urgency to respond until closer to the end of the year. Maybe you can set up a matching fund, where gifts received during the month of October are matched (doubled). This is the idea behind Extra Give — a national effort to encourage everyone to make a gift to a nonprofit during one specified day. Not only does it bring attention to the various needs of many nonprofits; it creates urgency for making the gift on that day!
Set a deadline and publish it on all your forms. It can be as gracious as: “Gifts received by December 30 will be eligible for deduction on your 2013 tax return” or “Please respond by November 1.” A statement like this may influence a busy person to take care of the matter right away and not risk losing track of the intention in the hectic weeks ahead.
Make a special offer, like a perk that is limited in availability — exclusive listing of early donors, preferred seating, thank you gift of something time-sensitive (Christmas thank-you notes, seeds for spring planting). These incentives provide an additional tug at the emotions of the thinking-about-it donor.
As always, make it perfectly clear, quick, and easy for the donor to act now: return the card, go online, make a call. If the donor pauses to deal with complications (i.e., find an envelope, find the Donate Now button, locate your phone number), you may lose him. You’ve invested too much time capturing his interest to lose him now!