Can’t Scan it? Ban it! 10 Reasons Nonprofit Appeals Tank
Stop making me—and your readers—work.
If reading your appeal seems like hard work to me, then why should I bother? I work all day! If reading your appeal seems like a struggle for comprehension, then what’s the point? I struggle to understand stuff all day.
My brain needs a rest.
Even more, my brain would enjoy a treat. Something that lights up my pleasure centers and makes me feel good.
Does your appeal do that for your would-be donors? Or does it require them to put in great effort to get through it?
Reading may be a breeze for you. But it’s not for everybody. Lots and lots of folks suffer from a range of “reading processing disorders” that makes it difficult for them to plow through a bunch of dense text. My son is like this. He “gets” part A and part C, but he completely misses part B. This means the connection between A and C gets lost. (Ever have the experience of reading to the end of a page, only to realize you weren’t really paying any attention to the meaning? So you have to re-read?) The solution for my son was to organize things in outline form.
To some extent, everyone has a need for this type of organization. Our brains prefer content that can be scanned—short sentences, headlines, subheads, bullets, underlining, boldface, white space—to large blocks of text. Too much of the same thing—even if it’s a good thing—is too much.
If you’ve ever been to a Cirque du Soleil performance, you’ll know what I mean. There’s so much going on that it’s impossible to focus on any one thing. The overall takeaway is one of dazed amazement. It’s all good, but it’s hard to follow.
You have to organize and focus things for your reader so your communications are easy to follow. Otherwise, they’ll tank.
After all, your desired action response for your fundraising appeal is a gift—not dazed amazement at the extent of the problem you’re addressing. The same holds true for your e-newsletter, blog or any other type of communication. There’s a call to action there somewhere, and you don’t want your reader to miss it. If you just explode everything out there, then the brain will begin to malfunction. Details will be missed. Action won’t be taken.
So what do you do instead to attract and hold attention? Actually, it’s a lot easier than you may think.
It all boils down to writing less and styling your text so it’s easy to read.
Readers are impatient.
According to the seminal Nielsen Norman Group study from 1997, 79 percent of Web users scan rather than read website content.
To further explore the way in which people interact with Web content, it conducted a study involving five different versions of the same site. It asked participants to carry out the same tasks across the different websites to turn up usability insights.
The five variations were:
- Promotional writing (control)
- Concise text
- Easy-to-scan layout
- Objective language
- Combined version
The results revealed that usability was high for both the concise (58 percent better) and easy-to-scan (47 percent better) versions. Combining the versions (concise, easy-to-scan and objective) rocketed usability off the charts (124 percent better usability than the control).