Direct-Mail Writing That Raises Funds, Part 3
Read what’s good, and learn from it. If you are not donating to organizations for the sole purpose of getting their mail, you are missing out on a bargain in terms of educational opportunities. You should be regularly reviewing direct mail and emails from groups doing similar work, national leaders in fundraising, groups you admire and hope to be like when your organization “grows up,” etc. You can also subscribe to Who’s Mailing What! and have access to a huge library of emails and direct mail packages if you prefer that to becoming a donor yourself.
As you review mail from other organizations, ask yourself these questions:
- What stood out in the pile of mail on your desk or in the mailbox?
- What makes you want to give?
- What made you cry (or feel strong emotion)?
- What makes you feel manipulated or otherwise “turned off”?
Writing direct-mail copy, like most things, gets easier as you practice. Don’t expect perfection on your first try—or probably your 10th try, either. But also don’t stop writing; this old dog knows that a lot of us are not born fundraising copy writers. But that doesn’t stop us from trying to write copy that will—even in a small way—help change our world for the better.
Checklist for Writing Direct Mail
- Does my envelope beg to be opened?
- Does the opening paragraph (or two) focus on the reader, not on the nonprofit?
- Am I talking conversationally to people instead of writing too formally?
- Have I explained a problem that won’t be solved without the reader’s donation?
- Can the reader easily see what difference his or her gift will make?
- Have I asked the reader—more than once—to give a donation?
- Have I avoided anything that could divert my reader’s attention (rabbit trails)?
- Is my letter the right length to make a compelling case for giving?
- Does my letter look easy enough to read?
- Do the P.S. and the copy on the reply form provide a concise reason to give?
- Did the editing help make the letter better?
- What have I seen and read lately that made me want to donate?
Pamela Barden is an independent fundraising consultant focused on direct response. You can read more of her fundraising columns here.