Don't Write a Fundraising Word Until You've Answered These 5 Questions
When you're writing a fundraising letter, the last thing you want to do is write the fundraising letter.
I mean that literally. The letter is the emotional core of your package. The thing that startles, arrests, cajoles and persuades your reader. But it works a whole lot better if it's built on a strong, well-crafted foundation. So before you let loose your heart-rending prose, make sure your copy will be supported by ideas and components that put it to its best advantage. So before you dive in, ask, and answer, these five questions:
1. What's going in the mail?
Copywriting expert Judith Warrington has a riddle for you:
Q: How can you spot a direct-mail copywriter?
A: When it's time to write, he starts folding sheets of paper.
In other words, before you start getting all creative with your words, get real with the package that's going to support them.
Decide each component you want to include, and make sure every component works together. Figure out the size for each piece, what's perfed, how many colors and where, what copy is lasered and what's printed, which inserts, if any, you'll include, and any other physical details. Printers and envelope makers have charts they'll gladly give you to show their standard sizes so you can figure out what will fit in what.
2. How much time do you have?
Make sure you have a clearly defined schedule for the various stages of copy and art. Deliver your deliverables on time and in print-ready condition. There'll be plenty of changes along the way, but the timelier and more complete your part of the project is, the more control you'll have over the final results.
3. Can you mail it?
One of the worst surprises you can get is to develop a perfectly crafted package and then discover the production or postage costs will bust the budget.
Willis believes in expressive writing, exceptional fundraising, and exuberant living.
Willis Turner is the senior copywriter at Huntsinger & Jeffer. He was an experienced writer and creative director in the traditional advertising world for more than 20 years before making the switch to fundraising nearly 15 years ago. In his work with nonprofit organizations and associations, he has written thousands of appeals, renewals and acquisition communications for every medium. He creates direct-response campaigns, as well as collateral materials and communications, that get attention, tell emotional stories, and persuade people to take action or make a donation.