The Oldest Fundraising Trick in the Book Still Works
Fundraising techniques come and go. One year it might be the six-page letter; another the e-mail video. One year might be the latest social-media platform; another it's the back-end tote bag.
All of them matter. All are important. Today, though, I come to sing the praises of an old standby that has quietly and consistently lifted response rates for as long as there has been direct mail. So let us take a moment to recognize the Gordie Howe of direct-mail fundraising techniques, the humble, venerable involvement device.
Involvement devices are the myriad little stamps, stickers, surveys, sticky notes, vouchers, bounceback cards, pennies, dimes and dollars that readers are asked to tear off, peel off, paste on, fill out or otherwise physically engage with. These add-ons give donors a tactile experience that goes beyond simply reading the letter.
AllBusiness.com says, "The theory is that a greater involvement will bring a higher response from the reader. A good example of this type of device is Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes packages designed by Henry Cowan, a major proponent of the involvement device theory; these packages often utilize a stamp sheet."
Actually, it's hardly a theory anymore. Involvement devices have been tested in so many variations and under so many circumstances that their effectiveness is a generally accepted fact.
They're especially powerful in acquisition, where you need every advantage you can get, because your package has to do double duty. In addition to grabbing attention and delivering a highly emotional message, a prospect package also has to do the grunt work of explaining to readers who you are. Oftentimes this means loading them down with dry facts and dismal figures that interrupt the emotional flow of the message. So keeping the reader in the package, doing something interesting or attention-getting, can make all the difference.
Willis Turner believes great writing has the power to change minds, save lives, and make people want to dance and sing. Willis is the creative director at Huntsinger & Jeffer. He worked as a lead writer and creative director in the traditional advertising world for more than 15 years before making the switch to fundraising 20 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, and collateral communications materials that get attention, tell powerful stories and persuade people to take action or make a donation.