Worth Considering: Go long! (with long letters)

Worth Considering from Matt HuggEver notice what people say is often very different than what they do? What seems logical and “intuitive” can be completely wrong. In fundraising you only need to look as far as the mailbox.

Time and time again, from volunteers and staff alike, I hear the mantra “I don’t have time to read a long letter.” Yet my experience and other direct mail experts will tell you, long letters can get results – especially in “acquisition” mailings, when you want to attract someone as a new donor.

Think of it this way. When you meet someone for the first time, do you say “let me make this short and to the point: give me money”? No, you have a talk about your mission and why they should take part. You paint a picture of your organization’s vision for a better world. You invite them to join you in the cause.

But who has time to read all of that?

You do. I do. They do…if it’s important to them. Each of us makes space in our day for issues that are important to us – in our jobs, our families, our dreams for a better world. If you’re mailing to the right people – the ones that have an affinity for your cause, they will read.

Of course you make the reading easy for them. You use bullets, you bold and underline worlds, and you write in an engaging manner.

Of course, I’m biased. Writing letters – short or long – is my work. I would be happy to write letters for you and your cause. But more than that, your success is my success, so if a longer letter gets more donors and more dollars – that’s great for both of us.

So once in a while – go long.

Hugg’s Monthly Tip: Let’s hear it for the slacktivists!

Hugg's Monthly TipLet’s hear it for the slacktivists! “Slackitivists” – a word combination of slacker and activist –  are the folks who “like” or give you a “thumbs up” on social media sites and other places they’re given the opportunity. Don’t write them off as a bunch of couch-potato post-college 20 some-things living in their parent’s basement. Slacktivism can be a gateway activity to support from either the slacktivist his/herself, or someone influenced by all of the “likes” left behind on the sites and causes that your slacktivist followers support. Review your web sites, your Facebook pages and other social media and allow plenty of opportunities to be a darling among the thumbs-up crowd.


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.