How to Make Appeals Appealing

How to Make Appeals Appealing

The typical church in America today seldom, if ever, talks about money for fear of driving people away. Jesus said, “You have not because you ask not.” I realize he was talking about prayer, but people will respond when we ask correctly. It is not that we ask for financial support that drives people away; it is how we typically make appeals. Most appeals are guilt-driven rather than vision-inspired. Many churches fail to meet their budget needs because they fail to ask people to support their cause. They have not because they ask not. Don’t let that happen to you.

This edition of the Coach, How to Make Appeals Appealing, continues my series on the various lanes you need to establish in building a culture of generosity that will sustain your church now and into the future. I’m going to talk about the value of working your Appeal Lane to advance generosity.

One of my major focuses is to get people started on the generosity journey, eventually moving up to being not only a consistent donor but a generous donor. For most people, this doesn’t come naturally. Telling people they ought to give won’t motivate them to give. Today, you must make a case for why they should give. To do that, your appeals must be appealing. So, let’s dive into how you can accomplish this.

Let me start by sharing with you the three major appeal platforms I focus on for Appeal Lane. Today’s non-profits focus their time and attention on three major appeal platforms: USPS mail, or as I like to call it, Snail Mail, Email appeals, and now text appeals. What method you choose to use depends upon the makeup of your congregation. At present, I recommend using all three. Let me share the reasons why I still utilize each in the strategies I recommend.

Snail Mail isn’t dead! Yet. Snail mail still works. Phil Cooke, in his book Maximize Your Influence: How to Make Digital Media Work for Your Church, Your Ministry, And You, has a section entitled “Do Donors Like E-Mail Or Snail Mail? Here is a quote:

“You’ve probably had someone on your team tell you that direct mail is over as a fundraising tool. Certainly, there’s a transition happening, but research indicates that most donors see advantages to both e-mail and direct mail communication from the organizations they support, and one study reveals that very few completely reject one form or the other.”1.

I’ll spare you the data Cooke then shares, but the bottom line is that, with few exceptions, nearly everyone in every generation responds to multiple platforms of appeals. Indeed, the study Cooke quotes backs up other studies done on the same subject. I can assure you the non-profit world pays attention to what works and what doesn’t. This is why they continue to use snail mail and why you should also use snail mail.

Email is still widely used and read! In the last few years, I have read several articles trumpeting the demise of email usage. A recent study contradicted that as they found the following:

  • 56% of respondents said they have at least three email addresses.
  • 88% said they use email every day.
  • 39% check their inboxes three to five times a day.2.

So, don’t give up on sending out email appeals! The key is writing them in a way that will cause your audience to open and read the important message you are attempting to communicate. See the Bonus Section.

Text appeals are gaining ground. When I started in the stewardship ministry, texts were non-existent. Now consider that according to a recent study, 70% of people say texting is the fastest way to reach them.3. As you know, I write for One of our client churches sees as much as 60% of their giving come via text! With over 90% of Americans owning a smartphone, you must consider using text appeals, particularly if you want to reach younger generations.

Here are five key mistakes I find most churches make when it comes to making appeals for giving.

Mistake number one: they are not well thought out and planned. Take the time to do it right! Spend the time not only to think through what to write but also to pray over your appeal. The time you spend will be worth it with the results you see.

Mistake number two: they come off as sounding desperate. Reading most church appeal letters makes me feel like I’m reading a message from someone who is about to drown. Desperate appeals cause donors to ask questions that can lead to a lack of confidence in the institution.

Mistake number three: they are dull and boring. That is how I would describe the typical appeal. I fall asleep after about a sentence or two. Or, at best, I start skimming. Charities are sending your members summer giving appeals that are professionally written and thus anything but boring and dull.

Mistake number four: we make it all about us. I had a pastor once send me his appeal letter. In the first paragraph, he used the personal pronoun, I, five times. Five times in one paragraph! I remembered thinking, is this about you or the appeal you’re making for the offering?

Mistake number five: we fail to connect vision to giving. Dollars follow vision. Big visions get big dollars. Do you know what else follows vision? People. The more people you have, the more dollars you can raise. The more dollars you raise, the easier ministry is. Since dollars follow vision, it is vital that the story and message connect with people.

Your mission is too important not to be fully funded. By avoiding these mistakes, you can make your appeals appealing. And doing so will position you better to attract and keep new donors.

Mark Brooks – The Stewardship Coach, the leading online giving processor in America, sponsors my writing. OG is owned and operated by committed Christians active in their local church. Find out more about their services at You can also read the blog post I wrote for them at

  1. Cooke, Phil. Maximize Your Influence: How to Make Digital Media Work for Your Church, Your Ministry, And You. Cooke Media Group, 2020.

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