Something you’ve probably heard us talk about– on the blog, in our podcast, and in Steve’s book, Donoricity– is scaffolding. No, we’re not doing renovations or construction at the office. We don’t need the Property Brothers to do any demo (but we’ve left them voicemails asking).
It’s a metaphor.
Just like any large construction job, every fundraising appeal needs to have the scaffolding set up before walls are put up or windows installed.
…or your results, (and our metaphorical building,) will crumble to the ground.
Scaffolding is our not-so-secret secret to creating a good fundraising appeal.
But what is it?
Scaffolding is what we use to write, design, and create effective letters, newsletters, email, and all donor communication. Each of these four items should be present any time you’re asking donors to contribute:
- Problem: What’s the problem that you need the donor’s help with? Is it feeding hungry people? Helping sloths? This tells the donor why their support is needed.
2. Solution: This is the answer to the problem that the donor can do. Maybe provide meals for hungry people. Maybe provide a day of care for the sloths.
3. Participation: How can the donor be involved? Don’t fall in the trap that this is always just giving a donation. Participation can also be asking for prayers, using a bounceback or something similar.
4. Consequence: What will happen if the donor doesn’t help? Will children go to bed hungry? Will a sloth be sad and lonely? Be careful though, this isn’t a guilt trip for the donor.
Before our team puts pen to paper (or, hands to keyboard?), we iron out the scaffolding for this message. Even if it’s an annual topic that donors hear about every year, it’s important to build it from scratch each time—you never know what you’ll realize made sense before, but needs to be adjusted now.
And when it comes time to review copy and art, we verify that it’s present and easy to see/understand.
Scaffolding is deceptively simple. You’re probably even be thinking, “Of course all that stuff needs to be in there, duh!”.
But, it can be tricky to include each one in your communication to donors every time. Maybe the problem this month is difficult to explain to a donor. Or the consequence sounds too scary to write down.
This is one of the secondary ways building your scaffolding first will help you: If you can’t easily answer these questions, you’re not ready to talk to donors about it. Scaffolding ensures that only fully-formed and compelling fundraising messaging reaches your donors.
Start your next appeal to donors by building the scaffolding first, then when you’re reviewing it, confirm it’s all there. You and your donors will be glad you did.
If you want to learn more, check out Steve’s book, Donoricity. You can get your copy here.
And if you’re not sure how to incorporate any of these in your communication, or have questions about them, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.