Monday, April 19, 2010

Don't We On Your Copy

When it comes to making direct mail work, you need to get all your tactics right - targeting, segmentation, creative concepts, lifts etc. But all of that adds up to nothing when writing poor copy.

Direct mail is still all about letters, and people write letters not organisations.

A really useful tip for when you are writing a letter is always, always write it in the first person.

Compare this excerpt:

"... is working to help people in Zimbabwe.   People like Grace.

Grace is a 30 year old mother of five.  Like many mothers in Zimbabwe she is single, having lost her husband to AIDS three years ago.  Her five surviving children..."

With this one:

"... is working to help people in Zimbabwe.   People like Grace.  Last year, I visited the project in Zimbabwe, and met with Grace in the Community Hall.  At the time I was pregnant myself and as I looked around I realised how lucky I was.

You see, Grace is a 30 year old mother of five.  Like many mothers in Zimbabwe she is single, having lost her husband to AIDS three years ago.  Her five surviving children..."

Much nicer copy, much more involving, believable and just better fundraising.  And in terms of tactics:

"We need to raise $500,000 by June 30.  Please donate by filling in..."

Loses out to:

"I have a target of $500,000 that I need to raise, by June 30.  Please join me and donate by filling in..."

It is important that everything is true of course, you shouldn't just make up stuff - if the signatory wasn't there that is a no-no.  With most of the charities I work with we always try to get the signatory to speak with the 'beneficiary' (the featured person in the story) and then interview the signatory.

You should also have lots of 'yous' in your copy too.  "Imagine how you would feel...", "thank you for your support...", "the impact you could have..." etc.

This isn't news of course - it is well established 'good copy' but the reason I am blogging it now is because of the number of appeals I am receiving where the staff or copywriter clearly haven't read about it before, or still don't believe it, or maybe their bosses don't like it.

There are tons of great websites and books helping on this kind of thing, but I recommend for great copy you should look at Mal Warwick's "How to Write Successful Fundraising Letters" - Rule 1 of his 'Cardinal Rules of Fundraising" (chapter 8) is:

"Rule 1: Use 'l', and 'you' (But Mostly you)
'You' should be the word you use most frequently in your fundraising letters. Your appeal is a letter from one individual to another individual, not a press release, a position paper, or a brochure.

"Studies on readability supply the fundamental reason the words 'You' and 'I' are important: they provide human interest..the most powerful way to engage the reader is by appealing directly to her: use the word 'you'"

My North American based colleague, Jonathon Grapsas offers some more quick tips for good copy here.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Give a little...

In Australia, our tax year ends on 30 June. Because donations are tax deductible, all the charities go out with appeals at this time of year.

Looking at benchmarking datat, we see that there are nearly three times as many donors over $1000 in June, compared to any other month. They also give nearly four times as much away in that month.

This begs two questions - why and so what should I do about it?

The 'why' is hard. At this time of year, wealthier people are much, much more likely to be asked. Some charities only ask certain donors at this time of the year.

Appeals go out, because more people give in June than any other month and more people give at this time of the month because more appeals go out, so we have a self-fulfilling loop.

The fact that it is the end of the tax year will also influence people. I know of some, wealthier donors, that give little bits but then at the end of the financial year, they assess their income and decide how much to give when they see their tax liabilities.

But so what? Making sure you present your case for these people makes sense, so I would not suggest not running a 'tax' campaign, but I do suggest not using tax as your proposition. Make sure you still get your proposition right - it is still about the work you do.

The benefit you are 'selling' to your donors is their donations impact on beneficiaries - it is not the tax deduction.

Also do note, that 75% of gifts are not made in June - don't concentrate just on that month.

Looking at motivations, James Briggs recently blogged about how, after forcing people to give (he gave them money to give away), he found that they gave to different charities than their usual ones. Check out his 'enforced giving' blog here.

Maybe that is because the usual catalyst - receiving an ask - was not there, and people had think differently who to give to. To see this theory in action - do this exercise right now:

* Give $100 away. Right now, you are online - get out your credit card and do it.

See how it makes you think differently?

Over to you to work out how to apply that learning to your next appeal.


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