I think it's ironic that the NFL limits the use of its most recognizable brand by controlling who can legally use the words "Super Bowl" in the events leading up to the "Big Game."

If you're a football fan, then you know that the Big Game is the Super Bowl, and vice versa. This clever wordplay works with this audience. However, you and your nonprofit should be careful. Ambiguous words and vague concepts can confuse your audience.

Every time you communicate with your past, present and potential supporters, you want to be clear about what you do and how they can help. When you suggest a next step (a call to action), you'll have a much better chance that your audience will respond in the way that you want.

Say What You Mean

When you ask someone to "Please help," what do you really want? Do you want a donation? Do you need them to volunteer? Do you want something else altogether?

Don't make your audience guess what you want them to do. Be very clear in your call to action, and tell them exactly how you want them to help you and your cause.

Be Specific

If you ask someone to "Please consider making a donation to our nonprofit," that's better because now you're asking them for a contribution. However, it's still not very good because you haven't told them what you need or how their donation will help.

Ask for a specific dollar amount and, if you can, tell them exactly what that money will do. Food Banks are great at this: "Every dollar provides 10 meals" or "$56 will feed a family for 6 weeks."

If it's hard to calculate what it costs to provide your services, that's okay. Try this: instead of asking someone to "Please support our prison literacy program," tell them that "You can help prisoners get their GED." The second sentence is specific, and it could attract a new donor, a new volunteer or both.

Avoid Vague Words, Like Programs and Services

Most people outside of your organization - especially first-time donors - don't understand what your "program" does on a daily basis or what kinds of "services" you provide. So stop talking about your nonprofit's programs and services. Tell people exactly what you do. (For instance, "We feed more than 1,200 hungry families every day.") Then tell them exactly how they can help.

The Bottom Line...

Be specific when talking to your supporters, and always offer a next logical step. When people understand what you do, why it matters and how their contributions (time or money) make a difference, they are more likely to support your cause. And when you add a strong call to action, your audience is more likely to respond...and respond favorably.

Send me a message and tell me what you'll say to donors in your next call to action. I love hearing from you.


Just like there's more to grant writing than just "writing," there's also more to fundraising than just grants. And how you ask for support is key to your fundraising success.

This month, I have three book recommendations that will help you speak directly to your donors. If you don't have the time to read the books, at least click the authors' names and follow these thought leaders' blogs.

Seeing Through A Donor's Eyes, book by Tom Ahern

Donor-Centered Fundraising, book by Penelope Burk

The Nonprofit Marketing Guide, book by Kivi Leroux Miller

Third Sector Consulting helps nonprofits find more funders and win more grants.

Send a message to start the conversation and learn how Laura can help you and your organization.