Here’s the thing folks … You should write your appeals at about a 4th- to 6th-grade level. Simple sentences. Simple sentence structure. Simple words. Add a story. Add a call to action. And add some urgency … and you have a solid letter.
Why? Simply stated … it’s a matter of courtesy. Supporters of your mission can get sophistication from a bottle of wine or a good book. But when it comes to your letters, they just want to know what the problem is and how they can help.
Marketing is about change — changing people’s actions, perceptions or the conversation. Successful change is usually specific. It’s hard to get someone to support your cause, help a devastated region or volunteer for good. But when you ask her to give $5 to provide a schoolbook for a child or sign up now to staff the domestic violence hotline for a 60-minute shift next Sunday afternoon, that usually works, if you’re talking in the right way to the right person at the right time.
In her August 2010 article, "S(p)ending Money to Make Money," DM Diagnosis contributor Kimberly Seville explained how some organizations were mailing coins to underscore the importance of every penny raised.
During the deepest depths of the recession, fundraisers were looking for any and all ways possible to plug the leaks and ramp up fundraising. In our July 2009 issue, fundraising consultant Pamela Barden — then with Russ Reid — provided 50 ways to net more dollars, even in the worst economic times, in her article "There Must Be 50 Ways …"
If your messaging isn’t getting through or your marketing campaign isn’t making a difference, it is probably for one (or all) of these three reasons: 1. falsely assuming that information results in action; 2. forgetting that we're not the audience; and/or 3. treating marketing as an afterthought.
What do you do when you’ve really screwed up with your donors or other stakeholders? First of all, I’m assuming: a) you have ways of listening to your donors; and b) you are paying attention. Second, you’ve realized that they’re right; you’re wrong.
Then do what one of my favorite clients of all time — Maker’s Mark bourbon (did I need to say bourbon?!) — recently did. Apologize … sincerely.