We often hear how unprecedented the need for the nonprofit community is, but it is clear that this sentiment rings particularly true as nonprofits weather another month of increased service needs, decrease and redirection of grant funding, and an overall economic downturn that is leaving fewer resources – volunteer, general operating funders, staff, and others – available.
With fall fundraising appeals being designed in the coming weeks, we are featuring the language that nonprofits should avoid and what is a must-include to create compelling and high yielding appeals in this two-part post. Read on for the appeal language we find least successful:
“Help us meet payroll by the end of the month.”
Running out of funds is not sexy and generally does not compel donors to give, even when it is in the act of transparency and conveying urgency. It is important to not convey panic amid imminent insolvency, even if that is the case. We have had a few conversations with funders who are deciding to pull funding based on their concern that the nonprofit will not exist in a few months. Funders typically do not want to be the last money into a failing business.
“We continue to provide our services unchanged.”
It is hard to imagine a nonprofit or its program that will have experienced zero effects from the current situation. Even if the underlying need has been unaffected, or your organization is thriving more, it is unlikely that the way it is serviced has also been unaffected or the individuals who provide those services, volunteer or staff, are unaffected. While this language is attempting to describe an ongoing need, what it instead does is describe a situation where the nonprofit is not being responsive to the current environment.
“We have closed a service-location and found little interruption in our service delivery.”
Changes to your mission delivery can lead a funder to believe your services unnecessary, superfluous, or poorly allocated. This is slippery language that can lead supporters to go down a path of questioning your operations. If you were able to make changes that didn’t materially affect anything, it begs the question of why those changes were not identified sooner and addressed. It creates the opportunity to question operations and leadership which diminishes supporters’ confidence in the nonprofit.
“With the difficult times, we have let go of employees including our long-time staffers to increase efficiencies and operate more effectively. We are in a better position to meet needs now.”
Most will appreciate that leadership has likely had to make some difficult decisions, particularly with staffing. But it is important that it does not appear (and was not, in actuality) cold and detached. The public understands that nonprofit employees are generally working because they are passionate about the cause, not because they are making significant salaries. If restructuring was a part of a nonprofit’s response, it should be shared with sensitivity and respect to those who lost their jobs.
“There are many organizations working to serve these individuals in need, but we provide programs like PROGRAM.”
It is rare in the social service sector that a nonprofit is the only one meeting certain needs. While a nonprofit might approach it in a unique way, now is the time to lean in to opportunities to partner and work with other organizations. Funders will want to see collaboration and thoughtful landscape-aware service delivery. Many are even expecting to hear about mergers and acquisitions. If a nonprofit program continues to meet a unique need or in a unique way, acknowledge that, but be sure to emphasize awareness, and where possible, alignment of the overall service environment.
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