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:
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:
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.