Six Goals For A Direct Mail Letter

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    Here six key objectives I set for every fundraising letter I write. I use these as standards to review and rewrite a draft appeal until I can’t improve it further.

    1. Create a personal connection. Always use the first person singular (“I,” “me,” “my”), never the snooty-sounding, disembodied “we.” Talk to me as if we are sharing coffee together. Use the word “you” as often as you can. Finding ways to use the word “you” naturally helps make your writing conversational and friendly.

    2. Tell a story. I know you’re saving the world. Now, can you show me one specific person (whose life you’ve changed? Can you name them? Quote them? Introduce that person and a problem. Then tell me what happened. Or better, tell me what can happen if I get involved.

    3. Appeal to emotions. We give with hearts first, heads second. That story you’re telling should arouse my pity or pride or fear. Your first-person narrator (the “I” in your letter) can express emotions directly, prompting the reader to reflect your own feelings of anger, sadness or hope.

    4. But still make sense. You always need to make a logical connection between my gift and important results. Who else will your organization help with that extra dollar? How will you make a bigger difference in their life?

    5. Show donors the benefits. Your organization’s direct outcomes, such as meals served, acres saved or patients treated are great – but they are not benefits to the donor. Tell me what I can expect to get out of my donation. Benefits may be direct and tangible, (free admissions and publications), indirect, (a safer, more prosperous community) or emotional, (the warm feeling of helping a child).

    6. Give readers one thing to do. And make it easy. If this is fundraising letter, then ask for money early, and again at the end – don’t ask for volunteers, phone callers, etc. Suggest a specific amount for my gift, but provide opportunities for larger gifts with an “ask string” of gift amounts above the target amount and an “other amount” option for those who can’t send your target gift.

    Remember that you get only a small slice of a reader’s attention when they first look at your letter. Pursuing these goals from your very first word will earn more time with your reader, engage their interest and convert interest into donation action.

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    Next Week’s posting is a piece by John Elbare
    on the “value” of getting your constituents to donate
    stock and mutual fund shares.

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    Jon is Vice President of Cause & Effect, Inc.
    He has helped nonprofits develop successful direct response strategies and
    effective donor communications
    for more than 25 years.
    Contact Jonathan Howard or
    visit the Cause & Effect website

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    Have you seen
    The Fundraising Series of ebooks ??

    They’re easy to read, to the point, and inexpensive ($1.99 – $4.99)
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