Calls to Action...And How to Use Them

When you send out your Direct Mail package, you've got one goal in mind. A gift, right?

Nope. Your one and only goal is to get your donor to take action.

That action may include a gift. And most fundraisers are hyper-focused on that outcome, since it's measurable and -- let's face it -- the reason they're there. But donors don't want to be treated like ATMs. They want to feel like partners in your mission, the invisible force that's making all of your crucial work happen.

Instead of looking for the gift, look at the action the people on your list take. In time, you'll see that the most engaged donors also have the busiest wallets. Try these calls to action for better donor engagement:


Most philanthropically minded people would love to count themselves among the enlightened and compassionate people who support your cause. Most of us like to feel like we're part of something bigger than ourselves, a coalition or broader movement that will make things happen or solve problems or just make a difference.

Of course, by itself, asking someone to "join" your organization or your cause isn't especially compelling. Some of us see that word and think about how we "joined" the PTA in September and by February were spending 20 hours a week making photocopies and attending meetings about school uniform policies.

So make your "join" message irresistible by linking it to a campaign or an action-plan that has specific goals in mind. Consider the difference between "Join This Great Organization!" and "Join our 3-step Campaign to Solve This Very Important Problem!" One's vague and only moderately interesting, while the other promises results.


This works well on a website or for an organization with a high-quality publication as part of its benefits. If you can get someone to subscribe to your e-newsletter or your magazine, you know that person is a willing ear. They may need a little more convincing before they fork over the dough...but if you're writing your publications correctly, it won't be long before that reader turns into a donor.

Of course, all the subscribers in the world are no good unless you are sending out publications that include fundraising asks and describe the various fundraising needs your organization has. So make sure the publications and fundraising teams are working together!


I write for a lot of activist organizations, so this is one of my favorites. Anytime you send out a package (or put up a web page) with a petition in it, you'll get a lot of people -- usually around 30-50% of responders for mail -- who will ONLY sign the petition without sending a gift. But guess who your best responders are the next time you go out? That's right, those who signed the petition. Petitions are a fantastic way to get people involved in your mission and an easy way for donors to feel like they're making a difference in your cause.

You need to have a petition-worthy issue to make this work, though. If you're sending a petition to one of 18 city councillors or the undersecretary of some department no one knew existed, it's not going to be very compelling. Save this for when you have a big, well known target in mind...and an issue that gets people excited enough to sign.

Tell us Your Opinion!

Everyone loves to spout off their opinions, and when you give your donors a quick, easy-to-follow survey to fill out, few can resist. Keep it short -- 3-5 questions -- and make sure the last question leads them to donating. (Try something like, "If you knew that This Great Organization was a leader in solving This Terrible Problem, would you be willing to support us with a financial gift?")

All of these are great ways to get donors involved in what you're doing. And an involved donor is a donor who gives again and again. Which gets you to the one action that most fundraisers -- and board members -- are most interested in: Donating.