Fundraising Copy and the Challenge of Heuristics
Is your brand your story? Some charities are blessed with names that need no explanation: Food for the Poor, Habitat for Humanity, Doctors Without Borders. But if your name is not your mission, you've got some explaining to do. It's worth extra time and effort to make your elevator speech as clear and concise as possible. If you can reduce it to the size of a tagline, even better.
Think outside the box, but inside the room. It may come as a surprise, but as much as people say they love fresh, creative ideas, most of the time they really don't. In fundraising, that's actually a good thing, because direct marketing is a big investment. Like it or not, even the most innovative ideas need to exist within the framework of techniques that are known to work. Fortunately, this is no hindrance to good writers and artists. Just look in your mailbox and you'll see plenty of examples of that.
Beware of your own heuristics, too. Just as we need to manage the assumptions of our donors and prospects, we need to rein our assumptions about them as well. A properly segmented file tells you a lot about the person you're writing to, but you have to leave room in your mind — and your writing — for the exceptions too.
Obviously not every derelict-looking senior citizen is worth $180 million. And not every $25 donor is going to leave your organization a million-dollar bequest. But it does happen. And there's no downside to treating every donor like he or she has a fortune to leave you. After all, you never know ...
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.