Today I was sitting in the car with my friend Steve, doing errands. We passed a giant dinosaur wearing a giant pink bra. He said, “Look at Breast Cancer. Everyone cares about that.” And I said, “Yes, that’s true.” And he said,
“But look at Testicular Cancer, people don’t care about that!” and I said, “Lance Armstrong cares” and he said,
“But nobody else does.” And I said, “He has one of the most successful charities in Texas, with millions of dollars” and he said, “But he doesn’t have a month! He doesn’t have a color!” and I said mildly, “He does have a color. It’s yellow.”
And he said, “Okay, but the only people who care about that are the people who have been personally touched by testicular cancer” and I said, “That’s true of any charity. That doesn’t mean people don’t care. We just have a limited capacity to feel strongly about things unless they’ve happened right in front of us.”
If you’re doing your year end appeal, you might want to remember this as you write. It reminded me of this passage in a Robert Collier book which I would like to share with you now.
Robert Collier yells across the years from 1937,
“It is difficult to get much worked up over statistics. You read with comparative indifference that 36,000 people are killed and 1,000,000 injured each year in auto accidents. But just let you witness a little child being run down, if you hear the anguished cry of its mother, let you look at the pitiful mangled remains, and you will never feel indifferent again. Every time you read of an accident, you will see again that mangled child, you will think of the bereft mother, and you will resolve to DO something to see that this wholesale slaughter is stopped.
The same is true of any great catastrophe-of earthquakes, or floods, or famine or war. We cannot visualize them in the mass. The only way to make us feel them is to tie them into the story of one victim. The English have tried this, and in the Great war, they brought it down to a science.
First they tried us on broken treaties and the like. But these left us cold, for every European nation has broken treaties pretty much at will, when it happened to be advantageous to them to do so. They tried a dozen other angles, and then they hit upon the theme of young girls being attacked by Hun soldiers. At last, they had something. From then on, their propaganda was resistless. They dramatized the case of Edith Cavell, and of a dozen other individuals, until they had this country ready to go to war two years before we actually got into it. In short, they appealed to our emotions by visualizing what was happening to one poor victim of war, and then followed with argument that sounded reasonable in indicating what might happen to us if we did not do something about it.
And that is what the most successful Fund appeals do. They appeal first to the emotion, and follow that with a swift shift to the intellect. They work up your feelings of pity, and follow it with a logical reason why you should give, lest similar catastrophe come close to you.
Here is the way it was done by one Tuberculosis Association. In childish scrawl across the top of a letter, there was reproduced the following-
Dear T.B. People:
Thank you for helping to save my daddy’s life and bring him home safe again and not being sick and coughing all the time like he used-
Then underneath it came the appeal–
The above is an exact copy of a part of a letter received by the Association. We are passing the thanks along to where it belongs-To the people who bought Christmas Seals last year. For without their help we could not have arranged for “Daddy’s” cure.
Will you help us to bring other back home, safe and well, by next Christmas?
We have already sent you your Christmas Seals, so you could help. In the rush of things, you have overlooked sending in your remittance in the addressed envelope we sent.
Your dollar can never do more good, nor be spent in a better way, than to help those who are sick and unable to help themselves. Won’t you help us to finish the job sending yours NOW? Please don’t wait.”
There are many other methods of getting people to give-the principal among them being an appeal to vanity. Many a man will give freely if it means seeing his name blazoned across a newspaper page, when he will give for no other reason. Even small contributors can be given this same satisfaction. but that is subject for a chapter in itself. (And Orchestras have known this for years.)
What do you think?
Robert Collier raised millions in both for-profit and nonprofit campaigns and this is just one of the many letters that exist in his book, The Robert Collier Letter book. Highly recommended. Especially now.
Do you use these strategies to write YOUR annual appeal? What has worked best for you? Please leave a comment.
If you want to do better on your year end appeal, I’m giving a webinar. Check it out!