Faster Than A Speeding Donor
So let’s look at how these 20 seconds break down according to Vögele. To begin, your donor will spend about eight seconds looking at the envelope, noticing how it’s addressed, whether you’ve spelled her name correctly, and reading the return address and the headline, if there is one. Many direct-mail packages die right here and get tossed into the trash without ever being opened.
But let’s say she opens yours. Within four seconds, she will form an impression about your organization based solely on the quality of the materials she is unfolding. This is an interesting point to note for designers. If the paper stock you’re using is too cheap and flimsy and not in keeping with your organization’s image, it sends the wrong message. Conversely, if the quality of the stock is too high and again not in keeping with your image, this also sends the wrong message.
Now she begins her first run-through. She looks at pictures, reads headlines, notices short paragraphs and underlined text. Within the eight or so seconds it has taken her to do this, she is getting short answers to some of her questions and begins to engage in a slightly deeper dialogue with you.
If she has remained with you for these 20 seconds, she will now read one full block of text, which, 90% of the time, will be the P.S. This is a very critical piece of information. It means that when you write your fundraising letter, you need to make certain that your P.S. sums up all of the essential elements of your appeal. If this is all your potential donor reads, she will at least know what you want her to do, why and when. The trick is to do this clearly and succinctly.
Now, let’s say this dialogue with your donor is a positive one. She likes what she’s read so much that she wants to give to your organization. You should have done a good job of adding urgency to your appeal so that she feels compelled to write her check right away. If not, time once again becomes your enemy; it acts as a filter and, over time, the emotional connection you initially made with her erodes. The longer she waits to respond, the less likely she will send her gift. Archived appeals rarely get acted upon.