You probably think your fundraising letters, emails, newsletters and other donor communication are just fine.
After all, your mailings are colorful and well designed. They look modern and professional. They are loaded with facts and information designed to teach donors about your cause and give them sound, logical reasons to make another gift.
You send a lot of appeal letters. In fact, you send one almost every month. You also email a really cool e-newsletter chock full of the latest news and tidbits representing every facet of your organization. Heck, you’re even into video now, posting away regularly on Instagram, Twitter and even venerable old Facebook.
Here's the Problem
There’s only one problem. You’re not getting through. Some numbers person in your life has run a report and it turns out, your direct mail response rate is tanking. Your e-news click throughs are really low. Your social media numbers, well, they could be a lot better. (Although EVERYONE tells you ‘it takes time’ to build an online presence).
Based on research and reviews of hundreds of letters, email campaigns, e-newsletters and social media plans—there are probably three things that are killing your donor response:
- You’re the focus not the donor.
Print all of your appeal letters for the past year. Take out a red pen. Circle every use of “I, we, me, us and our”. If the page bleeds, you’ve found your biggest problem. Your copy needs to focus on the donor—what they are thinking about, what they care about and it absolutely must pass the “who cares?” test.
Every day you compete for mindshare with hundreds of other messages and ideas whizzing past your donors’ eyes and ears. Make your message relevant and you will get people to stop and pay attention.
- Your copy is too long or too short.
A single page appeal letter is doomed to fail, but so is a four page one. The right length is somewhere between 1 and 2 pages, always using both sides of the sheet. That’s just a fact supported by the Direct Marketing Association, direct mail experts and authors as well as thousands upon thousands of A/B tests.
Similar research shows that an email appeal should be three to four concise paragraphs, each with a giving link and a knock-‘em-dead subject line. Oh, and sending three versions over about a five-day period works best. There are rules of the road for copy length, formatting, and timing in donor communications. Learn them, give up your personal preferences and you’ll waste less time sending stuff no one reads or responds to.
- You’re trying to inform, not inspire.
A lot of fundraising folks come from a marketing or communications background. They have mad writing skills, which can really help move donors’ hearts. But they devote entirely too much time on educating donors, seeking to win them over with logic and detailed information.
While everything you send to donors should include facts, it doesn’t have to be mind-numbingly detailed. Most donors want you to tell them the “why” of your work, not the “how.” Rid your copy of insider jargon and focus on winning donor’s hearts with powerful, inspiring examples. You can always provide the link to your website where a thoughtful donor can get all the facts and figures he or she craves.
Navigating donor communication’s whirling waters can make your head spin. A lot of the applied science in this area seems counter intuitive. We are here to help.
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