The power of underlining in fundraising

What’s with all that underlining in fundraising letters? A classic appeal can look like an over-zealous college freshman with a blue pen and time on his hands got at it.

It’s so tacky and unattractive.

But it works.

Underlining helps readers find their way into and through a fundraising message. Without it, a page can be a forbidding sea of gray that most people will find hard to pay attention to.

Think of underlining this way: Look at a page of type and ask yourself, What two or three things on this page do we most want donors to read? It might be the call to action. Or an especially dramatic part of a story. Underline those things.

That’s how you create an entry point into the letter — which is an entry point to response. Get them reading, and you’ve moved the ball that much farther down the field toward response.

Don’t miss the opportunity to pull readers in.


Comments

6 responses to “The power of underlining in fundraising”

  1. As you know, I hope, I’m one of your biggest fans. I almost always agree 100% with the points you make in your posts. Or at least 90%. But here I beg to differ.
    Excessive underlining – which is the rule in nonprofit direct mail – is one of the impediments we face in raising money. Because, if you emphasize everything, you emphasize nothing.
    Note that I said “excessive.” You DID ask the key question in this post: “What two or three things on this page do we most want donors to read?” Unfortunately, nowhere else do you say that ONLY two or three (or maybe four) things should be emphasized on a single page. And certainly not whole paragraphs, one after another.
    It’s a mistake to overdo the use of underlining – or of any other device to create visual variety on the page, such as indenting paragraphs, boldfacing, italicizing, or using bullets. With all these devices, you can indulge in too much of a good thing. But the worst offender, because it’s most common, is underlining. It’s almost always overdone.

  2. As you know, I hope, I’m one of your biggest fans. I almost always agree 100% with the points you make in your posts. Or at least 90%. But here I beg to differ.
    Excessive underlining – which is the rule in nonprofit direct mail – is one of the impediments we face in raising money. Because, if you emphasize everything, you emphasize nothing.
    Note that I said “excessive.” You DID ask the key question in this post: “What two or three things on this page do we most want donors to read?” Unfortunately, nowhere else do you say that ONLY two or three (or maybe four) things should be emphasized on a single page. And certainly not whole paragraphs, one after another.
    It’s a mistake to overdo the use of underlining – or of any other device to create visual variety on the page, such as indenting paragraphs, boldfacing, italicizing, or using bullets. With all these devices, you can indulge in too much of a good thing. But the worst offender, because it’s most common, is underlining. It’s almost always overdone.

  3. I have to agree with the first commenter, Underlining is confusing in the web world – I actually tried to click your underlined works expecting them to go somewhere – which they didn’t.
    I’d recommend bullet points or bolding for the most important points on a page.

  4. I have to agree with the first commenter, Underlining is confusing in the web world – I actually tried to click your underlined works expecting them to go somewhere – which they didn’t.
    I’d recommend bullet points or bolding for the most important points on a page.

  5. Like you, I’m a fan of underlining in letters. But only the words should be underlined. For us keyboard types, that’s Ctrl-Shift-W. Underlining the spaces between words makes it more difficult to read. All the words “slide” together.
    And I avoid underlining entire sentences – unless they’re very short. When you emphasize everything, then nothing stands outs. Double-indented paragraphs are a more effective way to draw attention to key sentences and paragraphs.

  6. Like you, I’m a fan of underlining in letters. But only the words should be underlined. For us keyboard types, that’s Ctrl-Shift-W. Underlining the spaces between words makes it more difficult to read. All the words “slide” together.
    And I avoid underlining entire sentences – unless they’re very short. When you emphasize everything, then nothing stands outs. Double-indented paragraphs are a more effective way to draw attention to key sentences and paragraphs.

Leave a Reply

What this blog is about

The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

Blog policies

Subscribe

Get new posts by email:

About the blogger

Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


Archives

Blogroll

Categories


Search the blog

The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

Recent Comments

About the blogger

Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

Blog Roll

someone’s blog