Did You Miss This Golden Fundraising Moment?

by Joanne Wallace

Frustrated donor pulling hair out

I'm sitting in front of my computer, paying my month-end bills.

At the bottom of the pile is an appeal letter from a church-related charity dear to my heart. It's about work they're doing in Syria. By the end of the letter, I'm thinking "I really must send a gift to help."

I'm there with my chequebook in hand, moved by the plight of people I'm now convinced I can help, knowing I have a little money left over. It's a golden moment in fundraising.

I look for the instructions on how to send a gift. Do I visit the website? Write a cheque? What?

I look in vain.

This is the call to action:

"I ask that you respond to this need today."

That's it. No phone number, address or website.

The moment passes. Instead of sending a gift, I drop the letter into my recycling bin and move on to my next task.

Direct-Mail Fundraising Rule #1: Tell Them What to Do

Dear readers, this deserving and hard-working charity broke rule #1 of direct-mail fundraising.

Once you've moved your readers emotionally with great storytelling, don't make them work to figure out how to send a gift. Tell them what to do

Tell them in the letter.

Tell them in the PS.

Tell them in the brochure you've enclosed with the letter ... but remember that brochure may get lost.

Research tells us again and again: if you don't tell people what to do ... they usually do nothing at all.

Direct-Mail Fundraising Rule #2 : Make It Easy

OK, full disclosure. I actually DID make a donation. But here's what I had to go through first:

  1. Google the website (1 click)
  2. Click the "donate now" button (2 clicks)
  3. Stare at a big blue hero photo urging me to "take action," but not telling me how.
  4. Read the menu bar. It's in very small white type on a dark blue background. I'm 54 years old, and it's hard to read. It also consists of six categories, each with a drop-down menu. Finally (persevering rather heroically, if I may say so) I find "Syrian Refugees - take action." (3 clicks)(plus now I'm annoyed)
  5. Now I've got a big white box of text, with two small field boxes I'm supposed to read to choose WHICH Syrian relief project I want to support. I try clicking, but it doesn't work (4 clicks)
  6. Puzzled (and even more annoyed) I click on a small thumbnail with a cutline reading "where needed most"(5 clicks)
  7. FINALLY I arrive at the page allowing me to make the donation.

I tell ya, I had to really want to help those refugees to wade through this website.

Lots of people would have given up after the second click. Maybe they did. We'll never know.

Faith-based charities have to follow the rules too

Also, this is a faith-based charity. I find a lot of them think they're exempt from the rules of fundraising. They're not. Donor psychology is donor psychology, whether your cause is religious or not.

The point is, donors are fickle. They want to help, but they don't want to work for it.

So don't make them. Instead, tell your donors exactly what to do, and make it ridiculously easy for them to do it.


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Can Great Ad Copy Sell Paper Notebooks in a Digital Age?

by Joanne Wallace

Ernest Hemingway writing

Like most writers, I'm a bit nerdy about notebooks.

I've had dozens of them: big and small, lined and un, plain and fancy.

I fill them with stray thoughts. Ideas. Grocery lists. I take them to meetings and coffee shops. There's one in my purse. In my car. On my desk.

But in all these years of notebook nerdism, I have never run across a notebook with its own story. Until now.

Moleskine: Notebook of Champions (or at least champion copywriting)

Moleskine Notebook

Friends, I give you the plain black Moleskine notebook, each of which comes with a card bearing this copy:

"The Moleskine brand was born in 1997, reproducing the legendary notebook of great artists and thinkers of the past two centuries, from Vincent Van Gogh to Pablo Picasso, from Ernest Hemingway to Bruce Chatwin: a trusty, pocket-sized travel companion, the anonymous black notebook was the faithful keeper of sketches, notes, stories and tips before they became famous pictures or pages of well-loved books."

Come on! What artist or writer doesn't want a notebook linked with Van Gogh or Hemingway?

And who doesn't want a notebook that might one day lead to a best-selling novel ... a Paris gallery opening ... a Pulitzer prize?

Find the Benefits Lurking Beneath the Features

A less-skilled copywriter might have written about the notebook's features: the buttery-soft black cover, the sleek lined pages, the convenient size that fits in your pocket.

But no. This copy digs far beneath the features. Instead, it sells the true benefit of owning a Moleskine notebook: artistic integrity. Fame and fortune. Lasting excellence.

And for that, there's always a market.

What are the real benefits of your product? Make sure you sell them in your copy!

(Oh, and if you want to join the ranks of Hemingway, Chatwin and, well, me, visit Moleskine at http://www.moleskine.com/en/)

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Content-Creation Lessons from Stompin' Tom

by Joanne Wallace

Stompin Tom Connors

Earlier this spring Canadians lost a national icon: Stompin' Tom Connors, legendary songwriter and musician.

Stompin' Tom ignored every conceivable rule for success in the music business, and won legions of fans in the process.

How did he do this? And, more importantly, what does it have to do with copywriting or content marketing?

Well, here's how Tom got his start:

Once upon a time in Timmins, Ontario ...

In 1964 Tom rolled into Timmins with about 35 cents in his pocket. Even in 1964, that wasn't enough to buy a beer.

So the bartender at the Maple Leaf Hotel eyed Tom's guitar and offered to spot him a drink in exchange for a few songs.

Timmins, for those of you who aren't from around here, was (and is) a proud mining town in northern Ontario, the kind of place where people work hard, play hard, and sometimes die on duty.

Tom took the bartender up on his offer, and ended up coming back to sing night after night. At the end of a month, he had a crazy-loyal fan base of rough-and-ready miners, factory workers, loggers, truck drivers and more - folks who remained loyal to his unpretentious music for the rest of their lives.

Copywriting lesson: write for your audience

So, and here's the writing lesson, how did he do this?

He wrote songs about his audience. Almost as soon as he landed in Timmins, he started chatting up locals, listening to their stories, finding out about their lives. Then he spun what he heard into songs especially for them.

He wrote songs like There's A Fire In the Mine, and Sudbury Saturday Night. Songs about hockey games and arenas, and about soldiers saying goodbye to their sweethearts while dancing the Maple Leaf Waltz.

And folks who were sick to death of hearing music from far-away Toronto or LA felt like finally, someone was singing their song.

So much corporate writing misses this.

Don't write about yourself. Don't write about your product. Or your mission. Or your godawful "solutions" that "help our clients manage change."

Write about your clients. Their problems. Their questions. Their issues. Explain simply who you are, and how you can help.

Stompin' Tom would be proud.

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