Recently Facebook was "outed" for playing mind games with its subscribers. Actually, "outed" is a bit misleading. They've been doing it for years, and it's all right there in the 9000 words of their service agreement. And guess what they proved? Negative words create more negative words, while happy, positive words caused people to comment more positively. Not exactly newsworthy, but interesting.
Not very original either. Every marketing person since time began knows that truism. It's called the psychology of selling. What made everyone a bit queasy is that they did more or less surreptitiously. Somehow, people missed the point that Facebook sells stuff, namely advertising.
Think about your favorite merchandise, say aftershave or lipstick. Do you buy it because the ads say "We know you think you are not really all that attractive, but our product will make you look better (or smell sexier) than you are now!" Probably not. That might be the real psychological reason you buy the product, but you'd rather keep that part to yourself. So, the ad reads "Add more excitement with our great new product – do you dare to be different?
It's the same thing with wooing donors to support your programs.
Of course you have to frame your message in a way that makes donors want to get on board, and you do that by being positive and upfront with them.
Tell donors exactly what their money will accomplish. If $5.00 will really provide three meals for a family of four, be prepared to back that up. Everyone frames things within their personal experience, and normally, three meals for a family of four costs more than $5.00 a day. Your donors don't know that you are giving donated food a value based on your cost to collect and distribute it, rather than going to the local big box food store and buying it. Tell them. Once they understand, they may feel more like a part of the team, not just another debit transaction.
It isn't enough to whine about your eroding bank balance. It isn't even enough to tell wonderfully sad stories about the people or things that need help.
Keep it positive and involve your donors on a personal level. It may seem strange, but on some level, your donors want to know what you can do for them. Can you make them feel useful, powerful and needed?
Yes, you have to define the problem and that may involve some unpleasant facts, but you want donors to feel that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Make your actual appeal reflect that.
Try it. You may find out that it's a lot more fun than writing doom and gloom appeals and way more productive.