How to appeal like a Girl Scout ⋆ Hands-On Fundraising

How to appeal like a Girl Scout

Girl Scouts have a great product – do you?

Your organization probably doesn’t sell Girl Scout Cookies… but they didn’t become wildly popular in a vacuum.

They’re good. Really good. And they’re special because you can’t just find them on the store shelves.

So think about:

What is your organization really, really good at? Where do you shine?

What sets you apart from other organizations doing similar work?

Create an irresistible offer

How to appeal like a girl scout

Look at this little leaflet. It was left at our door. And you bet I brought it right inside!

It wasn’t just the cookies… though I look forward to them. It was how sweet and personal this appeal felt. The girls (and parents) were only going door-to-door – they didn’t know our names. But this little piece of paper, with a photo of an adorable Daisy Scout, felt so genuine. (Of course, I blurred the photo to protect her privacy. But trust me, it’s an adorable photo.)

So think about:

What can you do to make your messages feel more genuine?

How can you make your communications feel more personal even when that’s hard?

Keep your promises

When you create a fundraising offer, it’s a promise: give us money and we’ll do something. And the people who trust you will give.

That trust is precious – treat it carefully!

The cookies took a while to arrive. I even began to wonder if they’d ever arrive. Was this adorable message some sort of scam? It was not.

I arrived home to find a small shopping bag on my doorstep. Attached to it was another little note, this time in a child’s handwriting. And inside were my cookies!

Think about:

What does your organization promise?

Do you keep your promises?

How can you make sure donors know you’ve kept that promise?

Say thank you in a way that connects

The little note was a thank you. Written in a child’s handwriting, it was awfully hard to resist. I would have thought cookies on my doorstep were thanks enough. But this little girl’s mom apparently did not.

Because later that day, I got an email. It was from the little Daisy Scout’s mom. She let me know they’d left the cookies at my door. And wanted to be sure I got them. And she enclosed a photo of two Daisy Scouts leaving the package. And she thanked me again.

Think about:

What can you do to surprise and delight your donors?

How can you make people feel that warm glow that comes with doing something good?

How’s your customer service?

Appeal like a Girl Scout: here’s how

Make messages feel more genuine and personal

There are lots of ways to warm up your communications. Use casual, not professional language – as if a person is talking. And yes, use the word “you” generously throughout. It catches a reader’s eye, but it also forces you, the writer, to shift your own point of view. You’re writing to a real person!

You can also warm up your communications with photos that feel real. (Sometimes authentic is better than staged.) And you can use simple things like a bit of handwriting… the child’s handwriting on my thank you totally bowled me over. There are a lot of handwriting fonts available now. Sprinkle some (not a lot) throughout your writing to make an ask.

Design is also important. The notes – the ask and the thanks – were not individually made. But they sure felt like it! And that’s what matters. There’s our logical, somewhat critical brain, but it gets pushed out of the way when something goes right to our feelings. So design for warmth. Make your appeal or email feel as human as possible.

Even the texture of your paper might matter… so give it some thought.

And of course, personalize! I hope you have a CRM that lets you do that. Keep good records, then use the information you have. Just like the word “you”, seeing your name in a letter or email WILL get your attention.

Let donors know you’ve kept your promise. And say thanks in a way that connects – like a Girl Scout.

This can start with your thank you. Don’t create something generic. For every appeal, create a thank you to match. Then thank donors for exactly what you asked them to do.

You can also use your annual report to show (not just tell) donors what they’ve made possible. (Remember, your organization doesn’t need all the credit; you need all the partners you can get!)

Donor newsletters are also a great place to report. Photos of your work in action, stories about someone they’ve helped… all that is part of building lasting relationships.

And at every step of the way remember part of your job is customer service. Return calls, respond to notes, and take every opportunity to let people feel they’re known and heard.

You may not have cookies to sell. But you do have a mission to share… and you do want people to feel great about being part of it. So next time you’re ready to ask for gifts, appeal like a Girl Scout!

P.S. If you haven’t gotten your hands on some Girl Scout cookies yet, you can try to order here.