Monday, 2 April 2012

On being The Professional

Sometimes, when you’re writing direct mail copy, you want to bang your head against a brick wall.

This is rarely because you don’t have the right words, (we writers have loads of the things) or because the cause isn’t inspiring enough. (Charities do amazing work after all.)

No, more often than not it’s because someone wants to amend your beautifully crafted letter.

Perhaps they are your signatory, a senior board member, a high-profile donor involved in the project, or the CEO.

They will invariably have no experience in writing fundraising copy and will say one (or a combination) of the following:

  1. It’s too informal
  2. I wouldn’t say it like that
  3. It’s too long – I’d never read a letter that long 

When this happens you will take deep breaths and make a cup of tea. During this time you will remember that 

You will then address their issue/s with the following cold hard facts.

1. It’s too informal:

This is not a PhD thesis or a Report to the Board. Successful fundraising copy should be written as a person would speak. It should sound like a conversation between the writer and the reader. Informal copy is personal, inspiring and moving. This is not the Annual Report. (Which, for the record, no-one ever reads.)

2. I wouldn't say it like that:

With respect, it doesn’t matter how you would say it. We are writing to get a response. Colloquialisms and contractions are rife in everyday language – and that’s exactly what good fundraising copy represents. It should follow the natural pattern of speech – so that your reader can understand quickly and readily the message you are trying to convey. Business language is not required here - thank you very much.

3. It’s too long:

Ask them whether they respond to direct mail appeals. The answer is probably that they don't. They might not 'have time' to sit and read your letter, but those people who will respond do. In tests a longer letter almost always outperforms a shorter version. People need a fair amount of information before they are willing to do that most unnatural of things - give their money away.

You do not need to be brief. But it goes without saying that if you’re going to write a long letter it needs to be compelling and relevant… But I know you know that already.


And with that, their concerns will be alleviated, and you, THE PROFESSIONAL, will be left alone to work your magic.

Or at least that’s the plan.



1 comment:

  1. "People need a fair amount of information before they are willing to do that most unnatural of things - give their money away." YES! So true, lol.