Pets Are People, Too
Pop quiz! What’s wrong with this hypothetical appeal from an imaginary nonprofit organization raising money to rescue, spay or neuter animals, and place them in loving homes?
Dear Friend of Animals,
ABC Organization knows that you love animals. You have a cat or a dog yourself, and you treat it like a member of your family. You would do anything to protect your pet and keep it out of harm’s way.
But did you know that you can help other animals just as surely as you love and protect your own? A donation to our Pet Protection campaign will …
Well, it wasn’t written by a professional direct-mail fundraising copywriter, so there’s probably lots wrong with it. But the most stunning example of ignorance of the very demographic the organization is trying to reach comes in the second sentence, where the appeal refers to the donor’s pet as an “it.”
Animal lovers, especially those most concerned with domestic pets — Fluffy and Rover and Spike, et al — immediately would be put off when they realize that the organization doesn’t share their sense that, frankly, pets are people, too. And if an animal-centric organization doesn’t feel that way, why would an animal lover trust and support it?
Referring to animals as “it” instead of “he” or “she” is one sure way to alienate potential donors to animal-related causes, says Bonnie Catena, vice president of fundraising at DMW Worldwide, a full-service direct-response advertising agency with offices in Wayne, Pa.; St. Louis; and Plymouth, Mass.
“Animal donors give on an emotional level — more so than most, if not all, other direct-mail donors,” Catena says. “Most have pets of their own and consider their pets full-fledged family members.”
You wouldn’t refer to your Aunt Sue as an “it.” (At least not in a public forum.)