You've heard the objections. "Our executive director would never say that." "She'll never sign this." "It doesn't sound like our president at all."
All of that might be true, but that's not the point. For most nonprofits, donors more than likely have no idea who the head of the organization is, let alone how that person "sounds." Think about it. Can you name the presidents or executive directors of all the nonprofits whose names you know? And of the presidents or executive directors you can identify, do you know what each of them "sounds like" in person or in print?
The only voice we should be concerned about is the voice that works — the voice that raises the most money. And the great thing about fundraising is that we can test one letter versus another, one style or voice against something very different, to find what works best. We can prove to signers and the guardians of their preferred copy styles that what they want might be hurting response significantly. And that's true no matter how educated your donors are or how "different" they are from any other group's.
Copy should speak to donors in everyday language donors use themselves, and it should be about what matters most to them — not you. Direct-response fundraising is not the place for $10 SAT words, no matter how much a letter signer might love them or use them "in real life."
And that's all good counsel for almost every piece of direct-response fundraising.
Voices that raise expectations
Sometimes there are cases, however, when a letter's signer is someone who is not only a household name but also has a very recognizable "sounds like" quotient. Someone like, say, Sarah Palin.
The day her letter arrived in my mailbox I thought, "This is going to be good." In anticipation, I made myself a martini and sat down to savor it.