11 more design tips for maximum response

Last time we looked at how to design your fundraising letter for maximum response. This time we’ll look at a few other aspects of design in the fundraising package that will help you achieve maximum response. For example…

1. If you have an element in your package with a photo or illustration, always use a caption with it. The visual will attract attention so you should take advantage of that by having a caption that relates to the photo or illustration plus builds the case for a donation. Simply, a photo or illustration without a caption is an opportunity lost.

2. Do not make the mistake of running a headline or even worse, running body copy across photos or illustrations. It reduces the effectiveness of the visual and makes the copy hard to read.  Usually best to have the headline above the visual with a caption below.

3. And speaking of a lost opportunity for copy, most mailers don’t use the back of the envelope. Think about it. In order to open the envelope, you have to turn it over to get under the flap, so you spend a fair bit of time on the back. It’s a good place to write some extra copy.

4. Here’s a small tip that will help get the letter read in its entirety. It’s a tactic that takes a bit of effort but should help get the reader to turn to page two. What you do is, ensure that the first page of your letter ends in the middle of a sentence and if possible in the middle of an important thought. This forces the person to turn the page to find out how the sentence ends. One problem is that the “board” or others who must approve the letter will tell you that you shouldn’t do this. But they are the same people who tell you not to begin a sentence with “and” or “but”. And they must be reminded that they are not professional copywriters.

5. Usually we want the reader to read the letter first because it is the most powerful selling tool in the package. One way to help that to happen is to repeat the envelope copy at the top of the letter. That way, especially if the letter is nested in the envelope properly, the first thing the reader sees when they open the envelope is something familiar. They go to it and read from there as a continuation of the process that enticed them to open the envelope.

6. Here’s something that is not a “must” but is almost sure to increase response. If your budget can afford an involvement device, like a sticker, use it. It almost invariably will increase response. But it does add cost so you have to test to be sure that the increase in response pays for the increased cost.

7. Here is something to avoid – setting type in reverse (white type on a black or coloured background) when there is more than just a sentence or two. More than that and reading is too difficult. Readers hate copy set in reverse but unfortunately, designers love it and continue to use it.

8. And another thing to avoid – not having enough contrast between the type and the background. Setting blue type on a 20% blue screen background may look nice but it won’t get read. You need to have lots of contrast and best of course is black type on a white background.

9. Do not put a period at the end of a headline, even if it is a sentence. The purpose of a headline is to attract attention and motivate the reader to read more. A period is a subconscious message that says “the end” so the reader is getting a mixed message. Granted this is a very small thing but all the small things can add up to make a difference.

10. Avoid numerous type-styles and faces within your package. Some people are still smitten with the ability to use various faces and then reverse, bold, italicize or outline each one of them. Remember, the best typesetting is never noticed by the reader.

11. And finally, avoid using too small a type face in the letter or in the brochure. This is absolutely critical when your audience is older. And if you absolutely must use a small typeface because of space limitations, use a sans serif face – it is easier to read when small.

The biggest difference between fundraising and other direct mail

In the last newsletter we suggested that the basics of direct mail are pretty much the same for the fundraising sector as for other sectors. But there is one huge difference that makes writing fundraising copy more difficult than other copy. In a word, that difference is benefits.

Whatever you’re selling, whatever media you’re using, your ability to persuade someone to respond or to buy is based on your ability to show them how they will benefit from the transaction. People will read your copy and respond because of a very simple principle called WIIFM – “what’s in it for me”. In other words, how do I benefit?

People don’t buy products or services. They buy the benefits the products or services bring them. A benefit is how the product will make me better off, how it will improve my life. Make me money, make me healthy, save me time, save me energy, make me smarter, thinner, stronger, taller, prettier, more handsome, etc.

Benefits result from product features. For example: A mutual fund offers a 20% annual return. That’s a feature. As a result, I’ll have more money to spend. That’s a benefit. A tire is guaranteed never to blow out. That’s a feature. I can enjoy peace-of-mind when I drive and never worry about changing a tire. These are benefits. A golf jacket is waterproof, Gore-Tex lined and weighs only 5 ounces. These are features. It will keep me dry in the rain, with Gore-Tex I won’t sweat and it’s light enough to carry all the time. These are benefits.

So how do we identify the features and benefits in the fundraising sector?

Let’s start with the features. There is no perfect analogy but it would seem in a fundraising situation, the features would be the “good things” that the fundraising organization does with the money they raise. Saving animals. Helping children. Finding a cure for a disease. Simply stated, the features are the ways the organization will make a difference. The benefits that the donor will enjoy will generally flow from these features. So part of the task of the fundraiser/copywriter is to ensure that these features are made clear and prominent in the copy.

We don’t usually talk of the benefits of giving but rather the motivations for giving. Identifying the benefits or motivations of giving is difficult because they are based on individual perceptions and feelings. The benefits of a tire or jacket described above are universal. That is not the case in fundraising. People donate to any specific cause for a variety of reasons and in most cases, stem from personal experiences. Some of them are:

  • A desire to make a difference. This could be based on altruism or compassion or both.
  • They care about a specific issue and want to take a stand. This could be idealistic and/or could be politically motivated.
  • They may want to keep up to date on a specific issue or cause and donating may accomplish that.
  • Some people may give because donations are tax deductible.
  • Many people give for spiritual or religious reasons. There could be a sense of obligation here.

But the overriding motivation for giving is that it feels good to give and that good feeling is instantaneous. And in this busy stressful world we live in opportunities to feel good about one self may be rare. So the challenge for the copywriter is to somehow capitalize on this. To remind the reader of the wonderful sense of joy they will experience by putting that cheque in the envelope.

Why Mail and the Telephone Still Rule

The electronic world offers tremendous opportunity, but let’s not forget about the basics . . .

There is no doubt – email, web sites, social media and all the other tools of the electronic world have great potential.
And any nonprofit organization that ignores them would be making a huge mistake. Money raised through these means continues to grow every year and will likely grow significantly over the next decade.

But the lions share of donations to nonprofits has been and will continue to be raised by the tried and proven workhorses of fundraising –the telephone and direct mail. They are more reliable, more predictable and provide a better return on investment than other methods. This may eventually change and the phone and mail may give way to more effective approaches but for now and the foreseeable future, if you’re not using both mail and phone, you are missing out.

The most powerful way to convince someone to donate is to meet with them face-to-face. And some organizations do run door-to-door campaigns. But when you compare the number of people you can reach door-to-door in a week to the number you can reach by telephone, the phone is a hands down winner.  If you want to speak with thousands of people in a short period of time, the telephone is the only way to do it. It is the most effective way to raise a large amount of donations in the shortest possible time.

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