Dave Sturdy, PF International
You are the audience for this article
If you work in fundraising.
If you brief creatives to design and write appeals for your organisation, or make fundraising materials yourself.
If you sign off appeals at any level.
Then this article is written for you. You are the audience.
But here’s the thing.
The fundraising appeal you are briefing/writing/signing off almost certainly isn’t intended for you.
You are not NOT the audience.
In every creative brief template there will always be a section, usually early on, called ‘Target Audience’. This vital part of a brief is often neglected and not given the attention it deserves.
Be honest – have you ever copied and pasted it from a previous brief? Has it simply become part of the furniture of your brief template and not been updated for years? Has it grown into an incomprehensible treatise of contradictory demographics and data-markers?
Have you ever even read it?
And yet, understanding your audience – knowing who you are talking to – is the key to creating effective fundraising communications. Once you know who it is you are talking to, then you know how best to ask them for a donation.
I was recently briefed by the RHASS to produce an emergency appeal to save the Royal Highland Agricultural Show.
1. I’m not Scottish.
2. I’m not a farmer.
3. I’ve never even been to the Royal Highland Show.
4. I know nothing about the Show except its name.
So where did I start to consider how to develop creative for an audience that had never been asked for a donation before?
With the audience.
I had to understand who I was talking to, and get to grips with what the Show means to them.
When I started to understand the audience, I started to realise that the Royal Highland Agricultural Show isn’t really about animals – although you’d be forgiven for thinking that based on the livestock in the show ring.
Instead, it’s about the community.
Scottish farmers and rural workers live in remote, isolated landscapes. The Show is, in many ways, a gathering of the clans. It’s the place to reunite with old friends, make new ones, compete against rivals (in a good way of course) – it’s even a place where romance often blooms.
The Show is about 200 years of family heritage and Scottish tradition. This audience love their animals, sure. But they love the show as the meeting place where they can pass on the baton of agricultural heritage to future generations. It’s an unmissable and integral part of the farming calendar.
This year the show couldn’t go ahead.
And the loss of revenue poses a serious threat to the show’s future.
As soon as you understand the audience, you know how to connect with their passion.
The Royal Highland Show isn’t just a place to bring your cow or sheep. It isn’t just a shindig. This Show is part of the DNA of Scottish rural life.
That’s why the ‘SAVE YOUR SHOW’ appeal, RHASS first ever appeal, has already raised over 250k in less than a month.
Who is your audience?
Next time you write a brief, don’t copy and paste or skip over the ‘Target Audience’ section.
Go on, challenge yourself. Delete what’s there and write it afresh. Imagine the audience as a person sat in front of you.
How would you talk to them?
What are their motivations?
What are their interests?
How do they connect to your cause?
What do they care about?
Answer these questions and you can start to uncover how to tell your story in a way that appeals to them as an individual. You can mine the details that will resonate. Ultimately, you can motivate them to donate.
After all, they are the audience. Not you.