In the rush to get something, anything, out the door on time, does it really matter how good it is?
Judging from my mailbox, many charities – even large ones – don’t seem to think so. The mistakes range from simple to fix ones – like formatting problems – to an outright rejection of the donor as involved in the process – other than as a check.
I shouldn’t be, but I’m always surprised by these. Don’t nonprofits with huge budgets have the resources to work with writers who know how to do this? Are annual giving programs just that low on the totem pole? Are they actually having the signer write the thing?
I don’t understand why an organization would spend the money to roll out a huge mailing and give the content so little attention. If it came to a choice, I’d mail less and do it better.
Take a look at this appeal:
Paragraph one: We’re awesome.
Paragraph two: Your money makes us awesome.
Paragraph three: Did you know there are more ways your money can make us awesome?
Paragraph four: Here’s a brochure about more ways you can send us money. Or you can call us to talk about how to give us more money.
Paragraph five: Thanks for sending us money.
OK, I’m being a little tough. Paragraph two got close to involving me, the donor. But then they veered right off into “we’re awesome” again. They’re the hero here – donors just get to help.
Where’s my story?
How did the money I gave last time change someone’s life? For pete’s sake, this is a cancer research organization – they can’t find me a story? This organization has pages on their website dedicated to patient stories. Why did they choose not to use one here? Since it’s a soft legacy ask, didn’t they think good practice would be even more important?
Here are the facts: we’re wired for storytelling. A story, well-told, puts our entire brain to work. It awakens our empathy. It touches us in a way no fact could do. In short, stories have what’s needed to move someone to make a gift.
So don’t tell me about your ranking or your awards. Tell me about me (that I’m caring and generous) and tell me about someone who needs me.
Does a well-written appeal really matter? Yes. Always.