Show, Don't Tell When Creating a Motivating Annual Fund Appeal

Let’s pretend I’m crafting an annual fund appeal for an animal shelter. Which copy would compel you to contribute?

A.     Please help us reach our goal of $10,000. Municipal funding and adoption fees don’t cover all our expenses. We need your donation to make up the shortfall.

B.     You can be a critical contributor in the $10,000 needed to care for animals and help them find their forever home. Here’s how:

$850 for a new washing machine—to wash towels so dogs like Matilda can enjoy a wonderful bath after roaming the streets for two months. (You can see Matilda bundled up in her towel here.)

$1,500 for Kuranda (www.kuranda.com) dog and cat beds to keep our friends comfy and off the cold floor.

$250 for a digital camera to take fabulous photos of our animals, so we can reach more adoptive families by posting pics on Petfinder.com. 

$1,000 for a backup supply (40 cases) of canned food, in case a disaster like Hurricane Sandy hits us again.

$25 for chew bones to keep our dogs busy while waiting for their forever home.

$2,500 to fix the roof over the kitty wing. It’s had a tarp since Hurricane Sandy.

$800 for new cages—more abandoned cats are hoping for homes every year.

$10 to help feed a momma cat who is still nursing in kittens. All 6 of them need homes.

$1,700 to repair our second (older) van, so we can take animals to weekend adoption expos at both PetSmart and Pam’s Pooch Emporium.

$1,400 to replace a broken section of the play yard fence to keep our friends safe from traffic.

Your donation will make you a hero in these animals' lives. Any size gift will have an impact and your contribution will help save one animal at a time. All of your friends at Gimme Shelter offer wags and purrs in thanks for your generosity. 

I hope you chose “B” as the more compelling appeal. 

Yes, it has more detail, and adorable photos of soulful eyes—in puppies or children—don’t hurt. But the most important takeaway is to show your existing and prospective donors why annual fund money is needed and the benefits it provides.  Did the sixth grade get a trip to an organic farm with annual fund donations last year? Does the fourth grade want to go, too? Get the sixth-grade teacher to talk about how the trip affected the students and how it dovetailed into the sustainabilty theme they're studying. Ask his students, too. Get photos. Tell stories about all sorts of things the annual fund has enabled and how they impact learning and students. How will this year’s donations do the same? Ask donors to tell why they give. Readers will begin to see their own reasons to contribute.

Voila. A motivating annual fund appeal.