Needs, Wants and the Absolute Importance of Relevance
It turns out the organization doesn’t need all of the $25 million in three days, but there’s no reason given for the arbitrary deadline. Nor is the amount broken down into something a $25 donor can find emotional satisfaction in, let alone real meaning.
Most of the letter is fairly institutional in nature, describing the organization’s mission and what the result will be. But “our budget indicates that we must raise $25 million” was pretty much a showstopper, and it lost me with the lead.
In a climate in which donors carefully are weighing need versus want, relevance is everything. A budget crisis without serious consequences that speak to donors’ priority concerns isn’t likely to make the cut when giving decisions are made.
An alternative approach
Because it’s easy to critique but not always so easy to craft a compelling offer, I’ll ante up a suggestion for what I would have done instead of the budget-crisis “telegram”: a very personal, even intimate, story-driven appeal from someone who lost a loved one — the very reason the organization was founded.
Help me know that person as the signer did, to relive the unspeakable loss, as well as feel the tremendous hope and proof of resilience that fulfillment of the organization’s mission will mean — not only for the signer and others like him or her, but for me, too.
I’d package the appeal to look like a letter from a friend, delivered in a closed-face, textured, ivory Monarch envelope with a live stamp, with the addressing in a large, realistic, handwritten font. (And please note that by a “large” font I mean in a point size that is something resembling the size of the average human being’s handwriting. Dinky handwritten fonts scream “FAKE!”)
To make the piece look less automated, I’d also use a mailer’s cancellation mark over the stamp and move the bar code away from the address block to the bottom edge of the envelope. No teaser, no hype. Make it look as not mass-produced as possible.