We all know intuitively that a strong sense of urgency increases the likelihood that someone will respond to your appeal. “If I can’t raise the money by next week, this will happen…”
But it can be tough to resist the temptation to include an arbitrary date. For example, “please respond by X number of weeks after lodgement deadline”, particularly in an appeal that doesn’t offer a natural (easy) deadline like the end of the financial year.
Supporters can smell the lack of authenticity a mile away. Generic deadlines make direct mail seem more like mass marketing and less like a real and urgent appeal for funds.
Last year’s Spring direct mail appeal for Make-A-Wish Australia featured four-year-old Isla who was battling neuroblastoma—an aggressive form of childhood cancer. Isla’s wish was to see snow for the very first time, feel snowflakes on her tongue and build a snowman with her family.
Spring is obviously a time when we all feel the air get a little warmer. But Isla’s wish was around visiting the snow, so we used this sentiment throughout the appeal:
Isla’s wish simply must happen soon – before the winter ends, and the snow melts.
Here is Isla enjoying the snow!
Full disclosure: the inclusion of the “snow melting” wasn’t tested in a controlled environment, however from the same segments of supporters mailed the previous year, the appeal increased year-on-year net income by 18%. This is obviously a very unique example, and there’s no magic formula for creating real urgency in your next fundraising appeal but having a compelling story, strong copy and clear call to action, with a real sense of timeliness, certainly helped this appeal achieve impressive results.
But it is worth considering the wider context in which supporters receive appeals: do your beneficiaries need something before the winter chill sets in? Do you need to beat the heat before the height of summer? Are there any impending political decisions that have a bearing on the case study or the ask?
Make the case for urgency part of the planning process for every appeal, and avoid it being an afterthought during the creative phase. Just like Isla, you won’t be disappointed. You can take a look at her wish in the video here.