I Wrote This Just for You
An experienced fundraiser like you wouldn't' be fooled by a lead like that. Would you?
Actually, yes, you probably would, if only for a moment.
We all want to believe we're special. Even when we know better, we still want someone to tell us we are.
It's one of the least special things about us. We all feel that way. So when you tell a donor or prospect he or she is unique, most of the time it's exactly what he or she wants to hear.
It's easy for people to see themselves in generic personality descriptions, because they filter out all the parts that either don't apply to them or they don't want to hear.
Think about reading your daily horoscope in the paper. How many times have you thought, "Of course, I don't believe this stuff, but it's amazing how accurate this one is!"
Back in 1948, a psychologist named Bertram Forer gave copies of a personality profile to a group of test subjects. They all got exactly the same profile, yet each of the subjects was convinced that what he or she read was written specifically about him or her.
For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
It's always ourselves we find in the sea.
At first glance the line is about how each of us is at one with nature. But when you look closer it also says we tend to believe that something as impersonal and universal as the sea somehow speaks directly to us.
You might have written, "Dear Friend, you have been selected ..." a thousand times. Yet when you see it in a letter written to you, there's that split second where you want to believe it.
There's a danger in being smart, experienced, seen-it-all fundraisers. It's too easy to project our own sophistication onto our readers. We think that because we can see through seemingly transparent persuasion techniques, our readers will too.
They could if they came to the message with a high degree of doubt. But most of the time, they are willing to suspend their skepticism because they want to believe.
It's say you can't teach an old dog new tricks. But you don't need to when the old ones work so well.
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.