Fundraising lessons we can use from Ukraine

Shortly before last Christmas, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the president of an embattled Ukraine, spoke to the U.S. Congress.

It was an important moment, as he needs to constantly seek support for the attacks his country is experiencing from Russia. He knows the U.S. has the greatest means of support. This is definitely emergency fundraising.

But as I watched (and yes, if you follow me on Twitter, you probably know I’m a news junkie), the fundraiser in me couldn’t help but admire his work. This was excellent fundraising, happening before our eyes.

If you didn’t watch it, you can watch it here.

Or if you prefer, you can read the transcript here:

So I sat down and made a list for you of all the ways he hit the mark. It’s worth thinking about. Here’s one man, making a life-or-death case for support. Could you borrow some of his tactics?

Zelenskyy’s speech to Congress in December 2022

He spoke his audience’s language

Literally! He spoke in English – his 3rd language.

President Zelenskyy begins with gratitude:

Thank you so much. Thank you so much for that. Thank you. It’s too much for me. All this for our great people. Thank you so much.”

He knew his audience and spoke to our aspirations… and (importantly) how we see ourselves.

We now know just how vital donor identity is to successful fundraising. Zelenskyy seems to understand that well. He spoke to our best selves. That’s always smart!

Dear Americans, in all states, cities and communities, all those who value freedom and justice…”

As much as possible, he addressed each group present

Madam Vice President, I thank you for your efforts in helping Ukraine. Madam Speaker, you bravely visited Ukraine during the full-fledged war. Thank you very much. Great honor. Thank you.

I am very privileged to be here. Dear members of the Congress, representatives of both parties who also visited Kyiv, esteemed congressmen and senators from both parties who will visit Ukraine, I am sure, in the future; dear representatives of diaspora, present in this chamber, and spread across the country; dear journalists, it’s a great honor for me to be at the U.S. Congress and speak to you and all Americans.”

President Zelenskyy drew us in by showing us how much we’re alike

… who cherish it as strongly as we Ukrainians in our cities, in each and every family, I hope my words of respect and gratitude resonate in each American heart.”

He made clear what the problem is, what he needed, and exactly what he promised to accomplish with it.

If you want a gift, it’s best to be clear and better to be specific, too. He doesn’t dance around what he needs, and why he’s there.

This struggle will define in what world our children and grandchildren will live, and then their children and grandchildren.

It will define whether it will be a democracy of Ukrainians and for Americans — for all. This battle cannot be frozen or postponed.

We have artillery, yes. Thank you. We have it. Is it enough? Honestly, not really.”

He defined the goal broadly enough to encompass not just his country, but all democracies. That means the stakes are huge and urgent.

It is just a matter of time when they will strike against your other allies if we do not stop them now. We must do it. I believe there should be no taboos between us in our alliance.

He explained what a bargain the gift he wanted was for us (the audience).

Ukraine never asked the American soldiers to fight on our land instead of us. I assure you that Ukrainian soldiers can perfectly operate American tanks and planes themselves.”

He explained all that his people had already done and given to achieve the goal.

Ukraine has already offered proposals, which I just discussed with President Biden, our peace formula, 10 points which should and must be implemented for our joint security, guaranteed for decades ahead and the summit which can be held.”

Zelenskyy was clear that without us, those goals could not be accomplished

You can strengthen sanctions to make Russia feel how ruinous its aggression truly is. It is in your power, really, to help us bring to justice everyone who started this unprovoked and criminal war. Let’s do it.

He flattered the audience but made it believable. If we act, we’re heroes.

Let terrorist — let the terrorist state be held responsible for its terror and aggression and compensate all losses done by this war. Let the world see that the United States are here.”

Stresses that if we help, they can be depended on.

We already built strong Ukraine, with strong people, strong army, strong institutions together with you. We developed strong security guarantees for our country and for entire Europe and the world, together with you. And also together with you, we’ll put in place everyone who will defy freedom. Putin.”

Zelenskyy brought in faith, but in an inclusive way, as an example of shared customs, and values.

Ladies and gentlemen — ladies and gentlemen, Americans, in two days we will celebrate Christmas.

We’ll celebrate Christmas. Celebrate Christmas and, even if there is no electricity, the light of our faith in ourselves will not be put out.”

He asks for not charity, but an investment. There will be a pay-off.

Financial assistance is also critically important, and I would like to thank you, thank you very much, thank you for both financial packages you have already provided us with and the ones you may be willing to decide on. Your money is not charity. It’s an investment in the global security and democracy that we handle in the most responsible way.”

He uses sensory imagery to move us at an emotional level

Every inch of that land is soaked in blood; roaring guns sound every hour. Trenches in the Donbas change hands several times a day in fierce combat, and even hand fighting. But the Ukrainian Donbas stands.”

Flattery and gratitude work

I thank every American family which cherishes the warmth of its home and wishes the same warmth to other people. I thank President Biden and both parties, at the Senate and the House, for your invaluable assistance. I thank your cities and your citizens who supported Ukraine this year, who hosted our Ukrainians, our people, who waved our national flags, who acted to help us. Thank you all, from everyone who is now at the front line, from everyone who is awaiting victory.”

There is hope. We’ve succeeded. Then credits us.

Americans gained this victory, and that’s why you have succeeded in uniting the global community to protect freedom and international law.”

Let’s do this, together

So, let these decisions be taken. Let this flag stay with you, ladies and gentlemen. This flag is a symbol of our victory in this war. We stand, we fight and we will win because we are united — Ukraine, America and the entire free world.”

He sums up by repeating his ask: help us and we’ll succeed.