3 Ways to Stay On-Message for Maximum Response
The offer should be the theme of your copy, and that means all the copy — the text of the letter or email, envelope teasers, email subject lines, captions, testimonial quotes, lift letters, inserts, everything. Each copy element in your appeal is an arrow, and your offer is the bull’s eye.
The images you choose for your appeal should support the offer, not undercut it. And that means your art director has to buy in to the offer and see the opportunity you’re presenting to donors. Let’s say your offer is about saving children in Africa from starvation. Sometimes there’s a tendency to present images of happy, smiling kids, with the thought that this shows donors the impact of their gifts. But in reality these positive images weaken the offer and deny donors the emotional impact that motivates them to give. You want donors to have the opportunity to save starving kids, not to see them already well-nourished and happy. Because images are often so hard to find and hard to get client approval for, it’s easy to throw up your hands and just use what’s available. But be firm. The wrong image will work against you. You’re better off without it.
The components you include in your appeal have to be judged against the offer. Inserts, premiums, freemiums, brochures, involvement devices — anything you might add to an appeal has to relate directly to the offer, or it shouldn’t be there. A big problem is inserts. More often that not, they’re just window dressing. For example, if your offer is about helping homeless people and you include an insert about how to politely deal with panhandlers on the street, thinking that this is simply helpful information for your donors, odds are that the insert will sink response. Nothing will pull you off-message faster than larding an appeal with extra stuff that doesn’t belong.
An agency-trained, award-winning, freelance fundraising copywriter and consultant with years of on-the-ground experience, George specializes in crafting direct mail appeals, online appeals and other communications that move donors to give. He serves major nonprofits with projects ranging from specialized appeals for mid-level and high-dollar donors, to integrated, multichannel campaigns, to appeals for acquisition, reactivation and cultivation.