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Connecting with Your Donors in the New Year


6 January 2015 at 9:43 am
Xavier Smerdon
When you make the first contact with your donors this year don’t forget to thank them, writes copywriting specialist Frank Chamberlin.

Xavier Smerdon | 6 January 2015 at 9:43 am


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Connecting with Your Donors in the New Year
6 January 2015 at 9:43 am

When you make the first contact with your donors this year don’t forget to thank them, writes copywriting specialist Frank Chamberlin.

When you make the first contact with your donors this year, don’t forget to thank them.

It seems pretty obvious, but sometimes fundraisers are so focused on the ‘ask’ that they forget about the ‘thanks’.

As you kick off the new year, give your donors some good news about what they helped you achieve last year. And give them a hearty ‘thank-you’ that reminds them why it’s good to support your cause.

Putting together a successful fundraising mail or email campaign is a project that requires loads of detail. Segmentation of the data is critical, of course. If you go to the wrong audience there is no chance of success.

Detailed briefing of the copywriter is also critical. There is no such thing as too much information for the copywriter. It’s the detail that helps to craft the story.

Once you’ve got your story, you need to engage the reader on an emotional level. If you can do this, you are well on the way to a successful appeal.

Here are some of my top writing tips to get the most from your next campaign.

1.     Start with a short sentence and a short paragraph. Short sentences give you the chance to communicate clearly and to grab the reader’s attention. And by keeping your paragraphs to a maximum of four lines, your letter is easier to read – and importantly, easy to scan.

2.     Use clear and simple everyday words. They are easier to read and reduce the potential for misinterpretation. Confusing words and jargon won’t intrigue your donors. They’ll just make the reader feel stupid – and stop reading.

3.     Include subheads and bullets in your copy. They get attention, improve readability and create all-important white space.

4.     Appeal letters need to be donor centric so be sure to include the word ‘you’ as often as possible.

5.     Write a strong call to action, personally directed to your reader. This strong and direct call must create the bond between the donor and your cause.

6.     Point out what the donor’s gift will achieve. The donor must be able to see him or herself as part of the solution.

7.     End the first page with an incomplete sentence. This is the best way to get the page turned.

8.     Make sure your appeal is based on a great story. It should be about a person or an issue that stirs strong emotions.

9.     Use compelling words. Powerful, emotive words have a big impact on how your message is received.

10.  Don’t end without expressing your sincere thanks.

A strong appeal letter weaves the story through the copy, with several ‘asks’ posing the obvious solution to the real and pressing need.

Graphic design and visuals should support the story. And a first class headline must set the emotional scene from the outset.

Of course, there is much more to effective fundraising copy than simply being emotional:

·       The ‘ask’ has to be relevant, clear and repeated

·       The copy has to be impactful as well as conversational and easy to follow

·       The header and the sub-heads have to hone in on the vital points

·       You have to be clear about what you want the donor to do

·       In the case of a letter, a compelling PS is essential.

Appeal writing is an art form. Campaigns either bomb or soar on the power of the copywriter’s skill. Follow these tips for a successful 2015. Happy New Year and thanks for reading this.

About the author: Frank Chamberlin has been presenting practical, full-day business writing workshops for more than 15 years. He’s the founder of the successful copywriting consultancy, Action Words based in Melbourne. Chamberlin teaches in the Master’s Program at Monash University.  frank@actionwords.com.au


Xavier Smerdon  |  Journalist  |  @XavierSmerdon

Xavier Smerdon is a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector. He writes breaking and investigative news articles.

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