Look at Your Copy From the Other End

You write fundraising copy for a client. It's pretty good if you do say so yourself and the client loves it.

Always delightful.

If you're lucky, you might have some say in the editing process once it leaves you. And if you're REALLY LUCKY, you might get to weigh in on the design.

If you were born under fair skies on the seventh day of the seventh month, you're on seed mail and you actually see how the package looks when it arrives in the mail.

I was lucky enough to receive some seed mail for a job I worked on recently. And it was a revelation. Seeing my copy from the other end, i.e., as a donor would see it and receive it, was eye opening. It certainly wasn't the first time it's happened. I don't know what was different about this particular instance.

But for some reason, the act of having the letter mailed to me, opening it, and encountering it with fresh eyes allowed me to ... encounter it with fresh eyes. (Hey, sometimes there's only one best way to say it)

Here's why I think it's so useful:

  • You get to see how it looks in a stack of mail. Did that first class stamp make it stand out? What about that handwritten address? Did the teaser do more harm than good? Did it make you want to open it? Be honest and evaluate if your direct mail wizardry worked.
  • You can ruthlessly appraise your writing. There's a sense of detachment when you open a package that's been mailed to you. Even if you wrote it, there's a remove once it's sailed through the good old USPS. Does it have the effect you intended? Do you find it as powerful as you did when you were at your computer looking at the screen now that it's in your hands? What would you do differently next time? What would you repeat?
  • You can evaluate the strength of the case for giving. And here's the biggie ... would your letter make you want to write a check? Or at least visit the website of the organization to learn more? Are your words as compelling as a recipient of the letter as they were to you as a writer?
It's a good exercise if you're tough on yourself and honest. 
What other things would you look for?