May 3, 2012 at 10:59am
WORD FOR THE DAY “response” (n.) “an answer or reply, as in words or in some action.” (dictionary dot com)
7 words, 7 ways to effective response letters
(Click on the title to activate a response window at the article’s end.)
A sad story . . .
The hospital direct mailed ELEVEN THOUSAND fundraising letters and got ZERO response, chiefly because of what the letter didn’t do. It didn’t use client stories well, didn’t connect emotionally with “you, the donor,” and, there was no clear and compelling call to action (among other things). The hospital could NOT AFFORD to repeat the mistake. So, I wrote a better direct response letter for their next mailing. You can generate response from your letter, too.
Here are seven ways you can create an effective fundraising letter:
CONSIDER the audience. In the hospital’s case, they were mailing to folks who’d been patients at the hospital, those who had an intimate knowledge of the type of service the hospital offered. However, that point was never addressed, or leveraged, in the letter. So, remember your audience.
“CUT to the chase.” Get to the point of the letter immediately (unless your story demands a dramatic build-up). People don’t want to be kept guessing. An option is to use a bold heading before the body of the letter. Certainly, you must mention the theme of your letter in the first paragraph.
CONNECT on a personal level. It is important to make a connection with your reader, to let him or her feel as if you had an interest in them, not just their money. Use words like “you” and “your,” rather than speaking from the perspective of “I,” “we,” “us,” “our.” If your paragraphs all begin with the word “We,” then, retool.
COMPELL readers with a client / customer story. Everyone appreciates a good story. You’ve got plenty of them among your client pool. Ask for the testimonial. Conduct an in-depth interview. Craft your story with details and descriptive words to draw the reader into the experience. Structure the story for dramatic impact: introduce the characters; present the situation/problem; show the struggle by the client and how he/she felt; detail the response/solution made by your organization; celebrate the happy ending.
CLARITY and CONVERSATIONAL tone, please. Basic, simple sentences (subject/verb) communicate well. Many experts suggest an eighth-grade vocabulary. Reduce redundancy; you don’t need multiple paragraphs repeating the “ask.” Your problem and call-to-action should be stated no more than three times – general ask at the beginning, specifics in the middle, and a reminder in the PS at the end of the letter. And, for Heaven’s sake, change-up the language of that call-to-action.
CAPTURE CURIOSITY with teaser copy on the envelope. You want your prospect to open the direct-mail piece and respond.
The value I brought to the hospital client was my nearly seven years of writing “ask” letters for a faith-based human services agency and its 40 service programs. It also helped me to have come from a theater and story-telling background. My letter will pay off in donations for the hospital. I guarantee it.
So, to guarantee the creation of the best response to your fundraising direct-mail letter is to remember seven words and their corresponding actions: CONSIDER (audience); CUT (to the chase); CONNECT (personally); COMPELL (action and emotion); CLARITY (in style); CONVERSATIONAL (in tone); and CAPTURE CURIOSITY.
(c) mary macdonell belisle – wording for you
May 8, 2012 at 03:07am