As promised, below you'll find the second half of our guest blog from Lydia Eckhoff, Director of Development at Crossworld. In part 2, Lydia dives into changes she has made to Crossworld's direct mail strategy that have yielded results, as well as use of storytelling in letter copy.
What are some other more global changes you’ve made in your messaging and communications strategy that have yielded results (e.g., more donor-centric, conversational, getting to the “ask” a little more quickly…)?
M&C has been very helpful to us as we’ve thought through how to make our appeals more effective. The basic principles I try to keep in mind when I write are:
1) Be donor-centric. I always go back over my drafts and rephrase as much as I can to use the word you more, especially with headlines, captions, pull quotes—anything that skimmers are especially likely to look at.
2) Keep it simple. I am a huge fan of hemingwayapp.com and run everything I write for donors through the app multiple times. I try not to mail out anything above a 6th grade reading level.
3) Get to the point. M&C has reminded me to get to the ask as quickly as possible. So I try to have an attention-grabbing opening, but after that, I am on the clock to ask for the gift as quickly as I can. My initial bent was to have a story and develop a narrative. You hear so much about fundraising and storytelling and I also had read about how longer letters perform better, but I think that people were getting lost in the narrative.
How has the use of stories come into your letter copy? How do you decide which stories to use and what is your editing process like, i.e., how do you define the strongest stories and decide what stays and what goes in a letter?
Kay Sprinkel Grace’s work has been very helpful. I love this quote from her: “People give to your organization because it meets needs, not because it has needs.”
I make a lot of test gifts to get on different mailing lists and see what’s out there. And If I get one more appeal about an organization’s fiscal year, I am going to scream. No one cares. Your fiscal year is your problem. Tell me about the person whose life will be changed by my gift.
We try to show the person the donor is helping and draw the shortest possible line between the donor and the beneficiary. Direct quotes from past or potential beneficiaries are always the most powerful. We try to keep our stories pretty on point—they end up being more snapshots than developed narratives. That seems to balance showing real-world impact and getting to the point as directly as we can.