Pay more attention to women like my wife, for example. She’s got a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. Her passion is porcelain painting. She sleeps six hours a night, does an hour a day on the elliptical machine, diets constantly, has experienced two cancer operations and never watches television.
Every day she drives a mile to our mailbox and comes back with her arms full. She opens every single piece. No exceptions. She supports several charities; when the mail comes from those organizations, she puts it in a special pile and tells me to leave it alone.
When she gets an annual report, she throws it away. She has a little basket where she keeps premiums that come to her. Most of them eventually go to the grandchildren. She’ll read a letter of just about any length, unless it has bulky, unindented paragraphs. My purpose in giving you this information is simply to get you thinking about a real, live donor who, in this case, won’t read letters with long paragraphs.
Launch an effort to make contact with a donor who represents your target audience. Find out all you can about her. Little details. Motivation. Likes and dislikes. Patterns. Do your own one-on-one focus group. Visit her in her own home. Peruse her kitchen. Browse through her bookshelves. Ask about her hobbies. Her favorite TV program. Her kids. Her grandkids. What does she worry about most? What makes her happy?
And finally, ask her if you can take her picture. Then, the next time you sit down and knock out a fundraising appeal, paste her picture to the upper right-hand corner of your monitor. Type her name at the top of your first page — and write a letter specifically to her.
Try to feel old, if you can
If you want to take it a step further, do a personality shift and become her. Say what she would say. Do what she would do. Then, write a letter from her to you. And in this letter, have her tell you why she would like to send a gift to your organization. Weird, but it has a purpose. Trust me.