Direct Response That Breaks Through: Capturing Attention (at Least for a Minute)
In fewer than six months, we'll know who will be the president of the United States for the next four years, the latest Olympic gold medalists will be staring at us from cereal boxes, the World Series will be over, and Valentine's Day merchandise will be on the shelves while "Silver Bells" plays over the loud speaker.
Let's face it — getting the attention of our donors is never easy, and big events that capture everyone's attention don't help. As fundraisers, we're constantly fighting against the clutter that fills mailboxes, inboxes and pretty much every other place our donors turn.
For larger nonprofits, testing to find the design, teaser or subject line, copy, offer, premium, and so much else that best capture attention is standard operating procedure. But for the smaller nonprofit, budgets often won't stretch that far, and your only chance to break through to donors has to be your best effort. "Undivided attention" seems like an impossible dream these days, but these reminders can help you break in to busy lives and get donors to stop and at least consider if what you're saying in your direct-response mail, e-mail and other efforts is worth listening to.
Put it in the context of 'me'
Too many fundraising messages are about abstract problems that affect someone else. The great messages that get read (at least by me) find a way to take that problem and make it meaningful to me. Our job is to find the part of the problem that is going to resonate best with donors. For example, I recently read that hunger among older Americans is skewed toward women, and those hardest hit aren't that much older than I am. That puts a face on the problem — and it looks a lot like mine. Knowing the demographics of your donor file, and then finding a way to bring the need home to that target audience, helps your offer stand out from the others.
Pamela Barden is an independent fundraising consultant focused on direct response. You can read more of her fundraising columns here.