Raising Funds With a Letter

If you didn’t know, there’s an old adage used in direct response advertising that goes like this: “Don’t tell me about your grass seed; tell me about my lawn.”

The idea here is your prospect wants to know what she will get, more than wanting to know about your product or service. What’s in it for her? What’s the value-for-value exchange she’ll receive when she spends her money?

The same is true when you’re raising funds with a letter…

The contributor wants to feel she’s done a good service, a random act of kindness, rather than hearing about what award your organization has won. She wants to know if her contribution improved someone’s life, eased his suffering or afforded him another chance. She would care less about how hard it was to secure a matching donor.

The donor wants to know what her donation will do – or has done. She wants to know if her contribution made an impact somewhere in the world. In short, your letter should really be more about appealing to your donor than explaining about your cause.

Shocking, yes. Here’s more…

Your organization may have a mission statement that clearly explains its purpose to save the ju-ju bug from extinction. That’s wonderful. But people rarely donate money because of a mission statement. (Even a good one.) In general, they give because you’ve touched them, and made them feel good about saving the ju-ju.

Are you still with me?

To put it bluntly: it’s not about your organization. It’s about your donors. When you appeal to your donor’s heart, she’ll more than likely respond with another donation.

Let’s look at a couple of ways of appealing to your donor’s heart:

1) Show appreciation. When you open the door for someone behind you and she thanks you, you’d most likely do it again. If she storms past you without even acknowledging you, you’d never forget her.

When a donor has made a contribution to your cause and you’ve never acknowledged her, she won’t forget. To avoid this, it’s good practice to sprinkle your appreciation throughout your letter. But sprinkle just enough and not too much, lest you make yourself appear insincere.

2) Don’t take a number please. Have you ever pulled one of those numbered tickets from the red ticket dispenser and then looked up at the digital display to compare where you’re at? You’re not getting the red carpet treatment here because you’re just a number to the powers that be.

Well, you have to do a 180° turn when you’re communicating with donors. You have to let them know they’re special. If you write your epistle as a personal letter you’ll have made them feel important.

3) Reveal a flaw. I began one letter with: “I have to be honest with you…” And then I revealed something personal the founder shared about herself that she thought would never be made public.

She felt uncomfortable reading it the first time – but thought it was really powerful after she put it down and read it again.

Since this letter was going to her house list, I knew everyone who read it would automatically identify with her and be pulled into the copy. This method would also work well with a rented list as long as you can get them to open the envelope.

4) Be truthful. In the same mailing we didn’t have any reply envelopes for donors to send the reply card. But this wasn’t going to deter our efforts. All we had to do was explain our situation. People would understand.

I painted the picture of a young organization just getting its feet wet in its first mailing. An organization that epitomizes the “ready, fire, aim” concept. Telling the truth with sincerity often garners support most every time.

5) You’re such a tease. I printed the word “Murakoze” on the outside envelope, which means “Thank You” in Burundi. This is classic teaser copy designed to create interest. They have to open the envelope in order to satisfy their curiosity as to its meaning.

The next time you want to raise funds with a letter, remember to tell your donor about her beautiful lawn. Tell her how the neighbors will stare and how stunning her house will look. And when she’s ready – she’ll buy your grass seed.

Tommy Yan helps business owners and entrepreneurs make more money through direct response marketing. He publishes Tommy’s Tease weekly e-zine to inspire people to succeed in business and personal growth. Get your free subscription today at [http://www.tommyyan.com].

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