How To Raise Money for Your Emergency Appeal

appeal appeals communications fundraising Apr 04, 2022

 Thanks to several of you who reached out to me following the article I wrote last week criticizing emergency appeals. Several people asked for some clarification. I came off strongly opposed to emergency appeals, but I do understand there is sometimes you need to send an emergency appeal. The article said emergency appeals are okay on rare occasions and explained the difference between emergency and urgency. 

Let’s assume you do have an emergency - an opportunity that:

  • had not been planned
  • falls outside your strategic plan or is coming significantly earlier 
  • may vary from your usual business.

If it’s an emergency that is worth creating an actual appeal around, here are a few ways to maximize the support for your organization:


Use the Words “Invite” and “Opportunity” 


It is easy to say “[Organization Name] has an emergency” but this type of language does not excite donors. Explaining your problem and your need is not helping to engage the donor. Instead, invite the donor to take advantage of an opportunity to make a difference. Explain what the opportunity means for them. How can the donor’s participation make them a superhero?


Explain the Need Using Impact


Answer the question “what does the recipient receive if this appeal is successful?” Notice I am suggesting that you focus on the positive, not the doom and gloom of the current situation. 

In the example from the previous article, the nonprofit working to provide water in Africa has an opportunity to buy the land it has previously been renting. Rather than saying it can bring “the organization financial security” explain the impact for the recipients of the water. “You have an opportunity to tell those who use our wells that we are committed to them like never before. You can give these families who rely on our services the confidence that their vital water supply is secure. Owning the land is an outward symbol of the permanence of our commitment to the village and the permanence of the project in Malawi.”


Use Metrics of Success


Put numbers to your project. Don’t focus on just the obvious things - keep asking what else - until you illustrate the impact in regards to the ultimate purpose of your organization. “Owning the property frees up $2,800 per month in rent expenses, which allows for the provision of 466 additional gallons of safe drinking water every day (a 10% increase!). Running our pump for the additional hours allows you to provide security for at least 93 more families and frees up 2,000 hours of walking. Imagine the businesses that will be created by freeing up this time. Producing thousands more gallons of water will also provide employment for 6 more people, giving a total of 47 individuals just at this one village a means to support their growing families.” 


Use Multi-Touchpoint Engagements


I always suggest having more than one touchpoint for each appeal but do not stick with just direct mail and email. Host an event, have a phone-a-thon, create a crowdfunding campaign, etc. If this is truly an emergency, this is the time to pull out all the stops. Engage donors, potential donors, and their friends in any way possible. 


I hope you don’t have an emergency any time soon, but when it inevitably happens, I hope this advice helps you meet your goal.