The 10 Commandments for Optimizing Fundraising Success, Part 2
[Editor's note: This is part 2 of a three-part series on the session, "The 10 Commandments: 10 Ageless, Irrefutable, Non-Negotiable Keys to Optimizing Your Fundraising Success," by veteran fundraising consultant Tom Gaffny at the DMA Nonprofit Federation's 2011 New York Nonprofit Conference held last month.]
4. If your letter's opening line doesn't engage donors … you're screwed
"You're not in the writing business," Gaffny said. "You're in the interest-building, motivating and selling business. Unless you build interest, motivate or sell, you've failed."
To build interest, motivate and sell, he offered these tips:
1. Appeal to your reader's self-interest. We are all most interested in ourselves, Gaffny said, so make it all about "you, you, you." For example, one Food for the Poor letter began … "Loving … caring … compassionate … these are words that we often use to describe our Lord. … Today, I use these words to describe you … Thank you. You are truly a special angel who has blessed many others. … This is who you are …"
The Boys & Girls Clubs of America is another good example, sending an e-mail with the subject line, "You Made The New York Times."
"It's all about the donor, not about us, our needs, but about what you do as a donor," Gaffny said. "'Our' is not as good as 'you' or 'your.'"
2. Share news without pussyfooting around. "If you have something to say, say it," Gaffny said. "Get right to the point of why you are writing and asking."
3. Be personal — show 'em you know 'em. Use your data, and trust in that data when communicating with donors. Personalize messages and mention milestones and past actions.
4. Hit them with an interrupting thought. Gaffny said children are great at this, just blurting out something from left field. For example, an Oxfam America letter began, "Here's what you won't find accompanying this letter …" Paralyzed Veterans of America used the opener, "35 years ago they said we were nuts!" And Covenant House used this interrupting thought: "I just saw God a few hours ago. He came unannounced to our shelter, right before dinner, a not-too-tall, not-too-clean kid dressed in dirty sneakers and a rumpled dungaree jacket."