It’s in the Cards: Why Lists Matter to Creative
There’s a powerful, woefully underused fundraising wea-pon that should be in every copywriter’s and art director’s arsenal.
It can help you target your creative more effectively, have a better feel for your prospects and, in all likelihood, do a much better job of motivating them to make a gift.
This powerful tool is so simple I can name it for you in just one word: datacard.
If you’re not familiar with them, datacards are the one- or two-page crib sheets your account executive and list broker use to determine which lists to test.
After the testing phase, lists that have proven effective in acquisition become control or continuation lists (i.e., lists to which acquisition control packages continue to be mailed).
Continuation lists can give a writer or art director a lot more information to help shape your creative than you might think.
Say you’re prospecting for a health care group that serves cancer patients. Your account executive and list broker have tested many lists and have established a group of continuation lists to roll out into general acquisition. One of these is the Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter. Take a look at that datacard, which appears here to the right.
Writing to the list
This information lets us do much more than just make the normal assumptions about nonprofit donors. For example, 82 percent of these prospects are college-educated, nearly triple the national average.
That they are predominately female is no surprise to fundraisers, but the fact that 80 percent exercise or play sports regularly sets them apart from the sedentary majority of Americans in their age group.
From a copy standpoint, that tells us at least two things we can use.
First, these prospects are educated enough to want a fair amount of information about the cause. So, in addition to employing high emotion and urgency, we’ll want to give them solid information about the organization — facts and figures to back up what we say.
Second, they also are concerned about their own health, so it could be a good idea to use some (very subtle!) language to remind them of their own vulnerability, that they or someone they love might need this kind of help someday. We also discovered that 72 percent of the Harvard Health Letter’s readers are age 55 and up, mere youngsters in the fundraising scheme of things. A 2005 study published by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, has shown that these baby boomer donors differ from their older counterparts in a number of important ways.
One of the most important is that this group “plan[s] on giving more in the future. In contrast, older donors in pre-boomer generations were more likely to reduce their giving in the future (26 percent) than increase it (just 12 percent),” the study reports.
As a creative expert, you know this is a signal to start building in a lot of cultivation-type language. With these prospects you definitely want to set the stage for long-term relationships. Make it easy to pitch a sustainer program after their initial gift. Lay the groundwork for planned gifts.
Best package, best list
Starting to see the potential for paying attention to lists? Now you can take this idea to its next logical level by creating a best package/best list strategy. It takes some time, but with aggressive testing you can discover which types of packages work best with which types of lists. The key is accurate and detailed results analysis. By working closely with your account executive and list broker you can build profiles of the prospects who are most responsive to certain kinds of lists.
This opens the door to a whole new host of creative opportunities. With this information you can begin crafting multiple control packages, each tailored to a certain profile. Think how this can expand the influence — and the fundraising power — of an organization!
These examples just scratch the surface. You can see datacards offer a wealth of information — facts you can use to add emotional and persuasive nuances to your copy and design, facts that can help you better understand who you’re talking to and find more effective ways to influence them. FS
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.