Nearly Half a Dozen Ways to Improve Your Numbers
In just 149 days, Betty will walk out of prison, a free woman.
Veronica will be stuck in prison for nearly five more months.
At a glance, which is how readers read fundraising communications, it seems like Betty will be free pretty soon, while Veronica still has a quite a stretch ahead of her.
If you calculate it out, of course, Betty and Veronica will get out of the joint at exactly the same time. But that's not what your donors and prospects will do. They'll be influenced by linguistic cues in the copy that will let them know whether or not four months and 14 days is a long time.
The use of statistics and supporting figures can be dicey. It's an area where the ability to see through your donors' eyes can affect results. Nonprofit organizations can rise or fall on hard numbers. Response percentages, average gift amounts, costs to acquire a donor — these are hugely important to what you and I do every day. As a result, we get very excited about numbers.
That can make it easy to forget that most people don't have the same emotional investment in numbers that we do. In fact, for most people, the more numbers they read, the sleepier they get. There's even research that indicates that introducing figures and statistics into readers' minds actually makes them less generous.
But for the most part, numbers are a fact of life in fundraising. We feel we have to tell people how many of their neighbors are homeless tonight, how many billions of dollars are being wasted, how many innocent people were injured and so on. There may be no good way to eliminate numbers from appeal and acquisition packages, but there are ways to position them that will nudge readers back to the right sides of their brains again.
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.