Worth Considering: 12141

Worth Considering from Matt HuggThat’s an effective appeal.

Maybe like you, I feel like I’m programmed to pick out things in odd places that relate to fundraising. So when I was reading a book called Traffic (Tom Vanderbilt) not long ago, something grabbed me. Vanderbilt touched on a point that I discuss in my fundraising classes: appeals that focus on the needs of one person – one student, one starving child, one cancer patient – are almost always the most effective. He went on to cite studies that tell us that the effectiveness of a solicitation letter goes down when even two people are discussed instead of one. He made clear what we know in direct mail fundraising: talking about groups of people or things simply dilutes the letter’s effectiveness.

Some of you have heard me talk and write about what I call the “Ed McMahon Factor.” (see http://www.pgtomorrow.com/archive/summer2009.pdf) In short, it says that forming a direct relationship between ONE signatory of a letter – not two or three, but one – consistently and over time, builds confidence in the organization. The letter writer – whether it’s the president of the organization or the board chair or a client that was served – is writing directly to the donor. It’s a personal correspondence, not from “us” but from “me.” But it needs to be the same person for a while. That builds a brand and loyalty – and response.

Rounding out this picture is the most important element – the person to whom you’re writing. You typically don’t write to a group, but to a person. So when you write to a person, you address that person by name, not “Dear Friend” or “Dear Hugg Family,” but “Dear Matt.” People pay much more attention to something written to them, even though they know that it’s not likely to be a personal letter.

So, what’s the formula? 12141. The best fundraising letter is from one person (1) to (2) one person (1)for (4) addressing the problems of one person (1)!

Of course, I’m biased. I can write 12141 appeals for you at any time. But whether you have me help you, or do it in-house, I hope this little memory trick reminds you of what’s important to say in every appeal out the door.



Hugg’s Monthly Tip: Did you blog about that?

Hugg's Monthly TipDid you blog about that? Even today, when the value of blogging is a proven way to get friends, old and new, to notice your organization, I get rolled eyes when I suggest that someone blog. That’s because unless they’re doing it, the next thought that flashes through someone’s mind is “I don’t have time for that!”

Take heart… A blog doesn’t have to be written by one person in your organization. It can be several of you. You might even farm it out to someone outside who can “speak your language.” Plus, I haven’t even talked about how you can “bank” some blogs for future use.

Just remember, whoever blogs – or Tweets – or posts – in these days of “barely enough time” for you and your friends, it’s those short, ongoing, meaningful messages keeps you top-of-mind with your most important advocates.

Worth Considering: “It’s a story, about a man named Brady…”

Worth Considering from Matt Hugg

Now that I’ve poisoned your mind with that little iconic jingle, let’s talk for a second about why that introduction was so compelling. Yes, catchy music and nice pictures helped, but from the very first words we were drawn in because “it’s a story…”

People love stories. I’ve sure that people with more degrees than I have can tell you why, but stories help us learn. Stories entertain us. Stories put emotion on cold, hard facts.

If the show started with “just the facts,” would a chart of the number of children, their ages, sexes, their biological parent and names be nearly as compelling? No. Would we get more information? Yes. Would we remember that information? Probably not. Plus, we wouldn’t spend a half hour learning about their trials and tribulations – and their advertisers (the whole point of the exercise of television broadcasting) wouldn’t get our attention so we could buy their products. The “just the facts” approach certainly wouldn’t form such a relationship with the characters that today few people remember the actor’s (yes, they were actors) real names, just their character names. From the advertiser’s point of view, if we just had the facts and not the story, we wouldn’t remember that the Brady’s were sponsored by Crest® and associate Crest® with Marcia’s shining smile.

What’s the lesson for our fundraising letters? Stories build relationships and relationships raise money. Having good solid facts to back up the stories is essential (whether or not you use them in the appeal), but you want to tell the story first and last. Use the numbers to legitimize your request – to give the understanding that the story isn’t an isolated case, but that the story represents an example of the problem your good organization solves.

Of course, I’m biased. My job is to write great stories about your clients, staff, volunteers and donors so you can raise more money. But whether you use me or an in-house staff member, remember that “it’s a story…” that gets their attention first.

Hugg’s Monthly Tip: We need left and right.

Hugg's Monthly TipLeft leg, right leg. Right hand, left hand. Left eye, right eye. Right ear, left ear.

To function correctly, we need everything on the left and everything on the right. Without that symmetry, we compensate, and when we compensate we use a lot more energy to coordinate our efforts.

It’s the same with your messaging. Does your right letter know what your left email is doing?

Are your emails and postal mail coordinated? Yes, they’re different, but like our two hands, when working together they’re much more powerful than working alone. They need to look and sound like they’re coming from the same organization that has the same mission and concerns.

Yet like your hands, your emails and postal mail shouldn’t be clones of each other. One might be stronger than the other, and one could be favored. But as much as they differ, they can’t look like they come from different people.

Yet a lot of messaging does. Maybe different people were responsible for each? Did your boss want your “new media” to have a “new look,” while your paper is “traditional?”

The solution may be as simple as having the same design standards. It could be a meeting between “hands.” Regardless, now is the time to clap them together and to fix the problem. Paper and e-mail don’t do as well alone as they do as a team. The hands need to shake, and agree.

Hugg’s Monthly Tip: Early and Often.

Hugg's Monthly TipEarly and often. When was the last time that the head of your organization communicated with your constituents? Not long ago, I hope. Yet that’s rarely the case. For all the work that’s required to run your typical nonprofit, sending out an update to 10,000 of her or his closest friends – your donors, prospects and clients – is probably not #1 on the list. That’s okay. Make it easy and write the letter (or have Matt write the letter) yourself. Regular communication with donors is a major problem for most nonprofits. Don’t let it be yours.