12 Ways to Spot a Great Fundraising Package
All fundraising copywriters read (or should read!) lots of direct mail packages. We do it to keep up with the competition, to search for inspiration or to know what’s trending out there in the nonprofit marketplace.
The challenge is that when we come across a package that gets our attention — whether positively or negatively — we seldom know whether it performed well for its organization. Sometimes, as in the case of an acquisition control we receive multiple times, we can assume the package has a decent ROI. But most of the time, we rely on experience, judgement or intuition.
Nevertheless, time and experience have shown that most successful direct mailings use certain tactics to help persuade readers to act. Next time you’re reviewing a package, look for these proven techniques:
- Short words with emotional impact
- Concise paragraphs
- Little or no passive language
- Short paragraphs at the beginning and the end of the letter — the sections readers read first
- Language that is simple but never talks down to readers
- Copy that looks like it was easy to write (that’s how you can tell it wasn’t)
- Letters that have a single, easy-to-understand theme
- Copy that jumps right into the message, without unnecessary “throat clearing”
- Packages that give simple explanations of complex ideas
- Copy that leads the reader from an attention-getting open to an emotionally compelling close without veering off into extraneous issues
- Graphics that relate directly to the message
- Letters that feel like they are exactly the right length.
Nothing in fundraising is always true all the time, of course, and direct mail can be frustratingly counterintuitive. Still, things we consider best practices, like the techniques above, became so for a reason. They will help you identify — and create — stronger, more profitable packages.
Willis believes in expressive writing, exceptional fundraising, and exuberant living.
Willis Turner is the senior copywriter at Huntsinger & Jeffer. He was an experienced writer and creative director in the traditional advertising world for more than 20 years before making the switch to fundraising nearly 15 years ago. In his work with nonprofit organizations and associations, he has written thousands of appeals, renewals and acquisition communications for every medium. He creates direct-response campaigns, as well as collateral materials and communications, that get attention, tell emotional stories, and persuade people to take action or make a donation.