Soliciting donations is an art form—there’s no single scientifically proven method that’s best in all situations and for all causes.
Ideally, you want to hone a message that lies between these two extremes:
A) Craft a pitch too subtly, and folks won’t even realize you’re raising money.
B) Arrange words that conspire to push too hard, and you’re liable to repel your audience.
Which of those extremes, do you suppose, is illustrated by the overture to Petco customers at their point of purchase:
WILL YOU HELP SAVE A HOMELESS PET?
When I first encountered that query while purchasing kitty litter about a year ago, my first reaction was that pressing “no” comes at the risk of going on a guilt trip. But upon further reflection and with each subsequent purchase (and pressing of “No”), it has bred resentment. How annoying that, at a moment when I am patronizing this shop, it is implicitly challenging my compassion for homeless pets.
And isn’t Petco already using a portion of my money toward its efforts to help homeless pets? Rather than hearing “thank you for your business,” it feels like the company’s parting sentiment is “OK, now we see: you care only about your pet.”
I don’t have exhaustive analytics to back this up, but common sense would strongly suggest that neither guilt nor resentment serves any business very well.
Central to Petco’s donation-pitch problem is that it makes personal such a strong-armed tactic. Much better to dilute the directness by shifting to a collective “team” effort in saving homeless pets.
Simple addition or subtraction—a word or two, either way—would do wonders to improve this solicitation:
Will you help us save homeless pets?
Want to help homeless pets?
Want to help us save homeless pets?
Help us save homeless pets!
My closing words, then, are a direct (and, I daresay, neither too subtle nor too forceful) appeal to the Petco PR and Communications team:
Will you help me improve your donation pitch?