To Whom Do You Wish to Speak?
One time my mother got a wrong-number call. The caller, hearing a voice he hadn't expected, paused for a few seconds then said in a rough, gravelly voice, "Uh ... who is this?"
My mom, in her very proper way, said, "To whom do you wish to speak?"
The caller, clearly nonplussed, cleared his throat and blurted out, "Sorry lady, I got the wrong number. I don't know nobody that says whom!"
Now my mom was a formidable presence in the best of circumstances. So this poor guy only needed a few words, expressed in a certain tone, to know that he had just dialed the wrong number. He was in the wrong universe.
As fundraisers, we know that addressing the right people in the right way is critical. But sometimes, especially in acquisition, what we know about the audience we're writing to is very general, e.g., older women, people who support law enforcement or whatever.
Actually, though, there's a lot more information at your fingertips than you might think. Enter the datacard — the copywriter's friend.
Datacards are the one- or two-page crib sheets your account executive and list broker use to determine which lists to test. After the initial testing, those lists that have been most effective become control or continuation lists, i.e., lists to which acquisition control packages continue to be mailed.
These continuation lists are the ones that matter to you as a writer or art director. Here's how:
Let's say you're prospecting for a health care organization that serves cancer patients. In the first phase of testing, the account executive and list broker test a lot of relevant lists. After results have been tabulated, they pare them down to a reliable group of continuation lists that have been rolled out into general acquisition.
If you look closely, there's a ton of information here that lets you go way beyond the normal assumptions we all make about nonprofit donors. For example, 82 percent of these prospects are college-educated — nearly triple the national average.
They're mostly female, which is no surprise. But the fact that 80 percent of them exercise or play sports regularly again sets them apart from the sedentary majority of Americans in their age group.
That alone tells us at least two things we can use:
First, these prospects are educated enough that they'll probably want a fair amount of information about the cause. So in addition to employing high emotion and urgency, you want to give them solid information about the organization, with facts and figures to back up what you say.
Second ... well, this is getting a little long for a blog, so I'll pick it up next week and talk more about what we can learn from this list. And I'll tell you about a creative strategy that can let you use this same information to nearly double the strength of your appeals, as well.
Stay tuned ...
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.