The Case for Trust
Take a fundraising letter. Any fundraising letter. No, better yet, take a letter that delivered the goods. One that already proved itself with strong results. Pass it around to people in your department, those who understand direct-mail fundraising as well as those who don't.
While you're at it, show the letter to some people outside your department. Share it with friends and family. Share it with groups and individuals. Ask for their opinions. Tell them you want their honest feedback. Ask them how they would respond if they got this in the mail.
What do you think will happen? Actually, you already know, don't you? You'll get opinions. All kinds of opinions. High praise, faint praise, no praise and damnation. And suggestions. Hoo-boy will you get suggestions.
● "I don't feel …"
● "This would definitely make me want to …"
● "This would definitely not make me want to …"
● "It would be a lot stronger if you changed this little part here …"
Or worse …
● "I don't feel this reflects our brand. It needs to show more of the good we've done instead of the need."
And on and on and on. In fact, the one response you'll get rarely, if at all, is, "I think it's great. I wouldn't change a thing." And you probably won't get asked about actual past results. That's perfectly OK. That's human nature.
If you ask people for their opinions, they feel like they're letting you down if they don't give you some. When it comes to something as intangible and malleable as a direct-mail message, almost everyone can think of something to say.
This can be a good thing. Feedback is valuable. Feedback can expand your thinking. But it can also be a bad thing. Uninformed feedback can — and frequently does — do a lot more harm than good. And committee or consensus feedback will always be overly cautious and even corporate.
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.