Drawing Attention to Your Cause
Why would anyone in his right mind suggest using humor in a fundraising campaign to help fight a terrible disease or address an important social cause?
Ask any conventional direct-mail expert, and he’ll tell you humor is one of the quickest ways to kill your campaign. But in the 27 years I’ve been creating mailings, I’ve found humor to be an extremely effective tool for breaking through — and creating an instantly warm connection with people. In my experience, humor is perhaps the most effective way to humanize any organization. And when you do that, people begin to care. And respond.
The problem is, working with humor is like working with plutonium. If it’s not handled just so, it can have the destructive power of an atom bomb. Humor done well can inspire and prompt people to act in record numbers. Humor done poorly will surely inspire contempt — and vaporize your campaign results, just as the experts have always promised.
So we’re back to our original question. Why would anyone in his right mind consider testing humor in a fundraising campaign? Because it works. Like nothing you’ve ever put in the mail before. It already has beaten many controls across many industries and missions; I know because some of my own publishing controls have stood for 15 years or more.
See you in the funny papers
When I talk about the use of humor, I’m specifically referring to the use of personalized cartoons as the hook into the mail piece — not cutesy headlines and never tongue-in-cheek appeals or sell copy. Your mission is serious, whether you’re selling memberships, requesting donations or asking for support for an important cause. And it deserves the respect of a hard-hitting, persuasive appeal.
But the outer envelope or front panel of your appeal has a different mission than the rest of your piece. It has to quickly make a connection with millions of recipients. And it needs to stand out among the rest of the mail it arrives with. That’s where humor — or more precisely, a well-targeted, personalized cartoon — can produce dazzling results.