As fundraisers, we know that emotions are what trigger a donor to take action. So it’s important that you think about choosing the right signatory for your direct mail appeal.  A great story, whether it’s told by the individual or someone close to them, can help your organization connect with your donors’ hearts.  The wrong signatory can result in an uninspiring letter and a missed opportunity to connect with your direct mail audience.

Some of the best fundraising letters are those that get at the heart of a story and help donors to FEEL the emotions you’re writing about.  Though you may have a roster of local celebrities or persons of influence that believe in your mission and vision, determining the right person to sign your next fundraising letter may not be that simple.

The key to creating a compelling fundraising appeal is to identify a great story, or a great storyteller, and deliver the message in a warm, conversational tone.

Here are a few suggestions to help you identify your next signatory (note that not all need apply):

  • Great storyteller
  • Has personal ties to your organization and is passionate about the work you do
  • Has benefited from your organization’s work and is comfortable sharing their experience with others
  • Knowledgeable about your organization and can clearly articulate the story on behalf of a recipient, patient, etc.
  • Friend or family member of a program recipient (like a spouse, parent, or adult child of a hospital patient)

For more “institutional” pieces, the right voice will be one of authority, so an individual in a leadership position will be a better fit.   For these appeals you may want to consider:

  • A trusted and well respected member of your organization/Board of Directors
  • Senior staff/volunteer with your organization; accountable to donors and other stakeholders

Here are a few bonus tips that can help identify a “person of interest”:

  • Expert in their field and can clearly articulate the issue and solution
  • Highly regarded in the community and is likely to resonate with a Direct Mail audience
  • Member of the community in which your organization operates and serves and can articulate your organization’s mission and values

In all cases, you’ll want to ensure that the signatory is comfortable with asking folks to make a donation to support your organization’s good work.

This post was written by Heather Brown, former Philanthropic Counsel at Good Works and fundraiser extraordinaire.  The article originally appeared at Hilborn: the leading provider of information to Canada’s nonprofit sector.