Jolene Miklas, Copy Director  ●  9/27/2018

Inspire Animal Lovers to Save Lives: Speak Your Donors’ Language


When it comes to marketing, does your charity ever need to balance multiple — and seemingly conflicting — messages? Animal welfare organizations know this challenge well.

On one hand, you need to promote pet adoption — showcasing shelter pets as healthy, happy, family-friendly companions.

On the other hand, you need to raise money — showing the incredible investment made in rescuing and rehabilitating sick, injured, abused, or neglected pets.

Many shelters tackle this challenge by taking a hard look at the language they use. Some shelters stop using emotionally-loaded terms like “cage” or even “animal shelter,” and replace them with sanitized words like “condo” and “animal resource center.” Some ban words like “abused,” “abandoned,” or “neglected,” or any descriptors that make an animal sound too needy or helpless.

But studies show that your donors have a strong desire to help the helpless!

Here’s a better approach that doesn’t hurt your fundraising: Be honest. Be authentic. Focus on telling your animals’ stories of transformation. And always speak to your donors in their language.


What does it mean to speak to your donors in their language?

It means using the words they use — not the lingo that comes so easily to shelter workers. It also means finding out what moves your donors to give, so you can guide them to help them fulfill their desire to save pets.

To find out what your donors want, we conducted a national study of animal welfare donors.

Their responses, captured verbatim in our report, show that animal welfare donors are driven by emotion. Here are some of the things they said:

  • “I want to improve the lives of animals that others have abandoned.”
  • “I want to fight to end the misery and abuse of animals.”
  • “Animals are so innocent, and when they are abused, I want to help.”

Those are powerful statements. It’s easy to see that donors want to save suffering pets. You’re doing them — and your animals — a great service when you give donors the opportunity to help homeless and hurting pets with a generous donation!

Your fundraising appeals are a good way to meet donors where they are and show them the good they can do by giving to your organization.

Here are some of the words that came up most when animal welfare donors talked about what moves them to give:

  • Help
  • Care
  • Need
  • Love
  • Deserve
  • Cruelty
  • Local
  • Life
  • Euthanasia
  • Protection

Keep these key words in mind when appealing to your donors. These words trigger their emotions and can motivate them to give.

On the other hand, communications that promote animals for adoption will use words and images that show the "after" in a pet’s "before-and-after" story. From the wonderful benefits to families, to the animals themselves, and to life in general.

In these messages, you will tell a story of happy outcomes and the happy transformations that your donors made possible. It’s a different story; therefore, you need to employ different words and pictures.

It takes donors and adopters to turn homeless pets into beloved members of a family. Speak to each in a way that appeals to their emotions and empowers them to be a hero for a homeless pet.


And keep up the life-saving work!


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