Special Report: Fundraising 101 Direct Mail
Rookie Mistake No. 7 — Forgetting that the letter is a letter
Beginners sometimes think that a fundraising letter should be a polemic raging against poverty, animal abuse or whatever the cause is. Not so. A fundraising letter is, first and foremost, a letter. Sure, there are times when the right tone is outrage. But even then, your letter still should read like a letter from one person to another. Not an essay. Not a philosophical treatise. Not a journalistic think piece.
Direct mail is the most immediate and personal medium. You should make use of that fact. You want your reader to feel that the signer of the letter is a real and concerned person, not a faceless corporate entity. Think about the signer. What kind of person is he or she? Think about your
charity’s brand. What are its characteristics? Try to incorporate some of these qualities into your letter.
Overall, you want to strive for an informal, warm, conversational tone, because that’s what most people respond to. Use contractions. Use italics for emphasis. Vary your sentence length. Begin sentences with “and,” “but,” “so” and “or.” No, it’s not grammatically incorrect. Use fragments. (They are grammatically incorrect, but who cares? They’re conversational.) When you’re done writing, go back and reread it again. Does it sound like a letter written by a human being in the 21st century to another human being? When you can answer yes, you’re good to go.
From average Joe to pro
If these rookie mistakes seem like a lot to cover when you’re in the heat of composition or slammed against a deadline, don’t worry. Just use these seven concepts as a checklist before and after you write. You’ll start off strong and be able to make some minor adjustments as you review what you’ve written.