Don't Suffocate Your Readers
I hate it when bad mail happens to good causes, but it does.
One recent fundraising letter I received has a monster-long list of officers and board members printed down the left side of the page. Not a killing offense in and of itself, I know. But the letter copy is entirely left justified (no indents or tabs) and aligned about a quarter of an inch to the right of the laundry list.
What happens to the poor donor confronted with a letter laid out like that?
Naturally, she tries to read from left to right and jump from the end of one line back to the left again to continue reading the next line. But she keeps getting lost and, basically, her eye tracks like a gutter ball at a bowling alley, traveling straight down the left margin of the page without taking in much of anything.
Try it, and you’ll see what I mean. It’s exhausting, with or without glasses. And it’s more disappointing than a gutter ball, for both you and your donor.
Then there’s another piece that came in a 5.5-inch-by-7.75-inch carrier envelope. The letter measures 6.25 inches by 9 inches and is printed with a 3/8-inch border design on all four sides. Copy runs to within 3/8 of an inch inside the fancy border design (top, bottom, left, right — the whole enchilada) and is lasered in 9-point Times Roman.
And why, oh why, are people sending out letters with teensy copy all smushed onto the front of the page when the back is blank and just waiting, begging to be useful and give donors a reprieve with nice, big, readable type?
(Please don’t let anyone convince you that it’s because of personalization, and they don’t want to spend more to duplex laser the letter — there’s always a way to get the ask on the first page and continue with your case for support on the next.)