That’s fine, as long as the methodology or message you want to appropriate for your own organization actually aligns with your mission. Some formats make perfect sense for one nonprofit but are too much of a stretch for others. The same is true for messaging.
Figure out what you do better than anyone else — and then do that. Being small and unable to differentiate your organization from the larger competition isn’t a good thing. Being small but having a clear differentiation that you proclaim over and over can be a great thing. Tell your donors repeatedly why you are different and what you do better. As Jack Trout, founder and president of Trout & Partners, said, “Differentiate or die.”
Don’t over-design your message into oblivion
I love a good design — be it on a website, in a direct-mail appeal, or in an e-appeal or e-newsletter. What I hate is when the design trumps the messaging.
Go back to basics — who is your audience? If your target donor is over 40, design for someone over 40. Skip the reverse type, the photos that are “artsy” instead of emotive, complicated packaging and graphics that leave the viewer wondering where to focus. Your job is to drive home an incredibly clear message: There is need. We have a solution. Your donation will make that solution possible.
I am probably in the age range of the target donor population for many nonprofits. I don’t have “one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel,” as the saying goes. But I do get frustrated when the nutritional information on food packaging is printed so small I can’t read it without finding a pair of the dreaded “dime store readers.” You may think I’m crotchety, but remember: I am also a donor. If your design drives me away from the message, I will become someone else’s donor.
Pamela Barden is an independent fundraising consultant focused on direct response. You can read more of her fundraising columns here.