Here are your answers to common complaints
Right now, someone in your organization, or an outside expert, is busy writing your important year-end appeal.
And a lot of other people are sharpening their red pencils.
I have been responding to copy criticism for decades. And the critiques are often along the same lines, time after time. Everyone has an opinion. But the important part is that not everyone knows what they’re doing with your copy.
This is why smart organizations hire good fundraisers and let them do their job. And not so smart ones allow people using their gut to gut your good work.
I’ve been in this uncomfortable position as a staffer and as an outside copywriter. And I know that for people who don’t love a good fight, it’s hard. When the boss has objections, what do you do?
I suggest you take a deep breath and stand your ground.
But maybe I can help you deal with a few of the evergreen objections I’ve heard over the years.
Our brand guidelines demand a sans serif font.
Brand guidelines so often hurt fundraising. They’re designed by people who love designing stuff. But they don’t know – or care – much about the fundraising audience.
The truth is that most fundraising audiences are made up of older people. This is the age when big expenses like a house or college for the kids may be past. But most importantly, this is the age when human beings become more altruistic.
And older people’s vision isn’t as good as was when they were twenty-something. So if you want to be read, you want to make it easy to read. And a large font, serif font is easier to read for print. (And with better tech these days, holds its own for digital.)
There won’t be many donors who will object to your fundraising materials straying from the rigidly enforced new brand fonts. They’re reading to learn what the problem is and what they can do to help.
What’s with all that space?
In the same vein, a piece of paper with large blocks of text is intimidating. Congratulations, we humans now have attention spans that can’t beat goldfish!
So if you want people to read, give them a break. Between paragraphs.
And indent. Don’t justify the right margin. Let it all breathe.
That isn’t grammatically correct
Beware the grammar police!
You definitely want to treasure that colleague who is a great copy editor. Ask for their help. But they don’t get the last say.
We don’t speak in perfect grammar. If we did, we’d sound strange and stilted.
Right now, as you’re reading this, are you hearing the words in your head? Almost all of us do. That appeal letter should sound conversational.
So use sentence fragments. Contractions. Ellipses…
That’s how we talk.
We have some great statistics!
This is love, not law or science. Statistics? Go easy.
If you work with someone who is sure that a logical case, backed up with lots of stats, will win the day you work with someone who doesn’t understand fundraising copywriting.
Bless them, but all those fabulous stats are not going to be persuasive. Think of them as a strong spice – a little bit can make the meal. Too much and it’s ruined.
We make decisions based on our feelings. Yup, even your statistic-loving colleague. Then we often immediately rationalize our decision. But the decision to give is an emotional one. Your reams of stats are just so much noise getting in the way.
We do such good work! Let’s share the good news.
If you’re working on a fundraising appeal, save the happy ending for the thank you and the donor newsletter you’ll send later.
Why? Because donors want to solve problems. If you tell them all is great – where do they fit in?
You really can’t amaze people into giving if you’re focusing on how fabulous your organization is. Focus on how fabulous your donor is – and how much her help is needed. The problem. Stay with the problem and how they can come to the rescue.
I would never read a letter that long.
True! But most of us don’t read the letter. We skim it. That’s why you want to leave white space. Use short sentences. Short paragraphs. Bold a few of the key points.
And to get enough of those in, you need space. That’s why getting a compelling appeal on one side of one page is really hard. Even two sides can be difficult. This is not the place to try to save money. Read more from Jeff Brooks.
I don’t sound like that.
While you want it to be believable that the letter was written by the person signing it, you don’t have to bend yourself into a pretzel. And if the objection is coming from the signer’s sense of self-importance, be careful.
Remember that we are insiders. We are not our donors. Trust the lessons already learned. And trust your results… no one is always right. Be open to learning.
People with criticism are usually coming from a good place. So make your case firmly, but with kindness. They’re learning.