8 Tips for Writing Calls to Action That Readers Won’t Overlook

We welcome back a special guest: Stelter’s Content Director, Katie Parker, to offer her advice on motivating your donors to take action through a strong CTA.

We’re done here. Story’s over.

So, now what?

Ever read something that just…ended? Maybe you felt inspired but not motivated. Like a passive participant who wanted something more.

When we skip the call to action (CTA) in our planned giving marketing, we leave donors and prospects feeling much the same, disappointed and unsure about what to do next. With a powerful call to action, you have the opportunity to lead readers from “What do I do?” to “Today’s the day!”.

CTAs are the workhorses of content. They help convert prospects into donors.

Calls to action are conduits, moving readers from passively receiving the mission story to actively championing the mission’s work.

Call to Action Basics

A CTA is a culminating and crucial element of donor stories, newsletter articles, emails, social posts—anything you produce as part of your planned giving marketing. They tell the reader what you want them to do next.

A rudimentary CTA sounds something like “Contact Kimberly Jones at 555-867-5309 or Kimberly.Jones@nonprofit.org for more information” or “Send my FREE guide.”

A simple flow for your consideration:

  1. Donor → Wants to make a difference
  2. Call to action → Conduit to fulfilling the donor’s dream
  3. Recipient in need → Receives the support

Tip: Write CTAs that unite the donor with your mission; not with your name. Though it may feel counterintuitive, omitting your nonprofit’s name from the call to action cuts the middle man. The CTA can then offer a personal connection between the donor and those in need—and how the donor’s planned gift positively impacts communities, causes or places.

Before: Help Pet Place Charity protect animals in desperate situations for years to come. Contact David Johnson today.

After: Protect animals in desperate situations for years to come. Contact David Johnson today.

Bonus: If you’re pairing the CTA with a donor profile, use a call to action that promotes inclusiveness and a sense of belonging. For example, “Like the Smiths, you can help students achieve their potential. Contact us today.”

8 Tips to Optimize Your CTA

These eight tips get calls to action noticed. There are two parts that need to work together: What the CTA says and how the CTA looks.

Part 1: What the CTA Says

1. Keep it to one important thing. Each ask should be purposeful and clear. Make success simple: You benefit from this one thing and here’s how to do this one thing. (The opposite would be a run-on sentence that gives a donor the chance to get an offer plus request a phone call from you.)

2. Aim for short. Clear, actionable and succinct wins the day. We’re all skimmers.

3. Use action words. A CTA isn’t time to go soft with phrases like “Consider” or “Think about how you can…” Use words, verbs especially, that compel action, like “Get my guide.”  

4. Make it urgent. Words and phrases like “now,” “today” and “ending soon” connote urgency. “These rates expire at the end of 2021. Act now!” or “Request your FREE tool today” start a hypothetical clock in the donor’s mind.

5. Personalize. Use pronouns like “our,” “my” and “I” or words that convey ownership like “yours,” “mine” and “my.” For example, “Your gift helps send children like Mary to school” or “Get my free estate planning kit.”

6. Shorten contact information. Save credentials and titles for a contact imprint or a bio page. While they’re worthy of notice, they can weigh down CTAs, especially if readers are scanning. Stick to your name, phone number and email.

Part 2: How the CTA Looks

7. Add color. Keep the CTA in your color palette—it’s editorial, not an ad—but pick one that nicely separates it from the rest of your piece. Make it pop, but keep it readable and on-brand.

8. Build in white space. Create a clean look using white space, which is the blank area around text and design. This resting space brings in the eye and lets it focus on the most important elements.

All the Tips In Action!

Here’s one of my all-time favorite pages of planned giving marketing from our partner, the University of Maryland. I don’t think I need to call your attention to the yellow call to action bar near the bottom.

Let’s check this against our eight tips:

1. Say the one important thing. There’s a looming campaign goal—UMD needs me!

2. Keep it short. “Help us cross the finish line!” is six words long. The supporting copy does additional legwork.

3. Use action words. “Help” is very compelling and speaks to the caring individuals who support UMD. 

4. Make it urgent. A finish line implies there’s a race going on. The visuals cleverly back that up.

5. Personalize. The CTA itself is missing this, but the supporting copy repeats “you” and speaks specifically to special tax incentives that will be personal to the donor.

6. Shorten contact information. The Office of Gift Planning is ready! The imprint, conveniently located just below the CTA box, has all the details.

7. Add color. The yellow draws my eye right away.

8. Build in white space. Yes, the yellow box can breathe.

The Wrap Up

A good call to action moves prospects further down your marketing funnel and closer to a conversation. They should leave empowered and motivated to take an additional step toward making the world a better place.

Check Your CTAs

It takes just five minutes to review your next marketing piece: Are you committing any of these call-to-action crimes?

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