That’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)!
Did 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.
Last night a student in my marketing class at Penn showed these as part of our regular “field observations” segment of the class. In a culture where every February George Washington and Abraham Lincoln dance to sell mattresses and cars and Columbus “sales” each October, maybe none of us should be surprised. For some, 9-11 is clearly starting to lose the gravitas it had just a few years ago. There’s a lot more I could say… but won’t.
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.