Everybody’s got an opinion
I’ve been doing lots of copywriting lately. Case statements, email appeals, and especially mail appeals. I love it. It’s one of my favorite things to do.
But over the years, I’ve also noticed I get the same questions. You too?
Maybe I can help you head a few off.
1. Does the letter really have to be two (or four, or whatever) pages?
No. It doesn’t. But if you want it to be easy to read, you don’t have a lot of room on one side of one page. The first page often has a good amount of space already taken up – with a logo, with the address block and a salutation.
It’s possible, but hard, to say what you want to say in so little space.
What you really should be concerned about isn’t the length of the letter. It’s “will it be interesting enough for busy people?” A good appeal letter will pull the reader in and keep the reader reading.
And a bad one, even if it’s short, won’t.
2. Why that serif font? It looks so old-fashioned! And why is it so big?
This one is simple. Studies have shown it’s easier to read. And you simply can’t ask someone to read your letter if you don’t make it easy.
3. I was taught either indents or space between paragraphs. Why are you using both?
See above. Dense blocks of type are not inviting. They look like work. You won’t succeed if you ask your donors to work. Isn’t their gift enough?
4. That’s a sentence fragment. It’s not grammatically correct.
Guilty. And your fourth-grade English teacher would not approve. But a letter should read like a conversation, not an essay. Don’t you use contractions? Speak in fragments? Ellipses…? We all do. That’s why I use them.
5. We have all these great statistics about why our work is so important. Why aren’t you using them?
People are moved by emotion, not facts or logic. They listen to their gut and then rationalize that instinctive decision afterward. Using statistics can backfire. But a great story gets right to the emotion.
6. We have several co-chairs and we want them all to sign. Mary? Why are you looking worried?
Because it’s probably not a good idea. Remember when I mentioned a letter should read like a conversation? It should also feel like a one-to-one conversation.
Once you have it signed by a group, it stops being a personal appeal and starts feeling institutional. No matter how cool your institution is, people give to people. Choose one person. Or divide the list and have the letter signed by different people for different segments.
7. Couldn’t we save room if you combined those first two lines?
We could. But the first line wouldn’t be as catchy. And the first line’s job is to get you to read the second line. Besides, remember question one? Let’s make the letter as long as it needs to be.
8. We have a gala coming up. Can’t we throw a mention of it into the P.S.?
Because the P.S. might be the only thing they read. Yup. Before they dig into the letter (IF they dig into the letter), eye tracking studies show your readers will read the P.S. So it needs to be good. It needs to ask for the gift. And it’s a great place to make that important ask with real urgency. It’s your fundraising appeal, condensed.
Would you rather have me take some of the punches?
I’ve been writing effective appeals since 1989. If you need a fundraising appeal written, get in touch and let’s talk about working together. It will be fun!
Photo thanks to Ryan McGuire