Donor centered copy: Some examples

I’ve just gone through the direct-mail swipe file, looking for really superb donor-centered copy.

Bad news: I didn’t find any. I found a lot of self-centered, look-at-me copy. I found a few examples that were not quite so bad. I even found a couple that were decent, if not great. I’ll show you a few:

Bad


It is amazing to realize that the most significant advancements in the treatment of [disease] have been made in my lifetime. Even more astonishing is the fact that so many of these advancements have originated right here in [City].

This guy must walk around with his eyes closed. Couldn’t even say “in your lifetime.” It’s an unpromising start to a letter that’s resolutely self-centered, never making even the slightest move toward being about donors.

A little better


In remote places you’ll never visit, I conditions you could never imagine, and in the eyes of children you’ll never see, there is unthinkable suffering.

I’ll tell you about it.

And once you hear of these horrific stories, I believe — and hope — that you’ll help.

Give them credit for frequent use of you. The copy isn’t at all about the donor, but it’s at least involving the reader in the story they’re telling.

Better yet


You are invited to join a special group of community-minded people whose generosity helps support one of [area’s] most treasured and beloved institutions — [name of organization]. When you accept this invitation to become a [member], you are supporting a century-old tradition of reading an learning at one of the largest and most widely respected [Type of organization] in the world.

Again, here’s an organization talking about itself. But they’re talking about how the donor connects to the organization, so it’s somewhat more effective and likely to get donors’ attention.

Even better


Let us introduce you to one of your neighbors, a 27-year-old woman named Veronica.

You may not know Veronica, but you have a lot in common. Like you, Veronica knows the value of a dollar. Like you, Veronica takes pride in her ability to take care of herself and her family without relying on others. Like you, Veronica is concerned about how a sudden catastrophic illness could turn her life upside-down.

Not exactly about the reader, but it really does draw the reader into the story with its clear call to the reader to get into the story.

Unfortunately in this batch of letters, I couldn’t find any truly donor-centered copy. That’s how it goes. Not that many fundraisers are focusing tightly on donors. So I had to write some myself:

You are my hero.

Yes, you.

You’re one of those unusual people who doesn’t just feel sorry for hungry people — you do something about it. Your record of compassionate giving make [Area] a better place every day.

That’s why you’re a hero.

Never forget: Good fundraising is about the donor. It’s not about you.

Don’t ask donors to support your cause. Show them how your organization can help them support their cause.


Comments

12 responses to “Donor centered copy: Some examples”

  1. Sally Nix Avatar

    This piece is amazing! How often we focus on what we are doing, and how our work is so important to our communities. It is nice to be reminded that a direct mail piece should really speak to the person and not be a PR piece about our work.

  2. Sally Nix Avatar

    This piece is amazing! How often we focus on what we are doing, and how our work is so important to our communities. It is nice to be reminded that a direct mail piece should really speak to the person and not be a PR piece about our work.

  3. Great post. Messaging in terms of the donor (opposed to from the perspective of the organization) is essential for fundraising success.It’s key to market to your donors a individuals, with messages that will resonate. http://bit.ly/hW9jLb

  4. Great post. Messaging in terms of the donor (opposed to from the perspective of the organization) is essential for fundraising success.It’s key to market to your donors a individuals, with messages that will resonate. http://bit.ly/hW9jLb

  5. Jeff, you are such a wonderful help to this relative newcomer on the fundraising scene. Thanks for this post – it has really helped to re-orient my copy-writing thought process.
    Keep this great stuff coming!

  6. Jeff, you are such a wonderful help to this relative newcomer on the fundraising scene. Thanks for this post – it has really helped to re-orient my copy-writing thought process.
    Keep this great stuff coming!

  7. Jeff,
    You are my hero.
    Yes, you.
    You don’t just complain about the letters, you actually do something about it. You actually gave me something that I will use over and over again.
    That is why you are my hero.
    Thank you

  8. Jeff,
    You are my hero.
    Yes, you.
    You don’t just complain about the letters, you actually do something about it. You actually gave me something that I will use over and over again.
    That is why you are my hero.
    Thank you

  9. Jeff,
    While I appreciate the advice, I don’t think you can look at 4 lines of copy and use them to determine whether or not a letter is donor-centric.
    And that begs the question: What is “donor-centric?” When I read the example you wrote, I’m left feeling that it’s all about throwing bouquets of thanks and praise to the donor. Does that make for “effective” copy? (“Effective” as in “gets results”?) Based on 20 years of experience and countless testing, I don’t think so.
    If I were to judge a letter based on a paragraph or two, I’d say that what you’ve labeled as “a little better” is really compelling copy. (3-lines of copy, that is.)
    Sorry Jeff… you are WAY off the mark on this one.

  10. Jeff,
    While I appreciate the advice, I don’t think you can look at 4 lines of copy and use them to determine whether or not a letter is donor-centric.
    And that begs the question: What is “donor-centric?” When I read the example you wrote, I’m left feeling that it’s all about throwing bouquets of thanks and praise to the donor. Does that make for “effective” copy? (“Effective” as in “gets results”?) Based on 20 years of experience and countless testing, I don’t think so.
    If I were to judge a letter based on a paragraph or two, I’d say that what you’ve labeled as “a little better” is really compelling copy. (3-lines of copy, that is.)
    Sorry Jeff… you are WAY off the mark on this one.

  11. I agree with Chip that the copy labeled “a little better” and that labeled “even better” are really compelling. (Or look like they could be, from what I can tell).
    When I donate to an organization, I want to know what good it does in the world (in the particular cause I am interested in). The two examples I mention do that. Your copy doesn’t do enough of that, for me. I mean, maybe it could work, combined with a lot more info about IMPACT (in a storytelling kind of way), but I didn’t find what you wrote compelling. It plays to my ego, sure, but that’s not what I’m about when I donate. Since I’m unlikely to donate more than $100 to a cause (at this point in life), I would find it a bit pedantic if I received your copy. That is, I wouldn’t really believe I was your hero.
    Look forward to your response, Jeff. Thanks.

  12. I agree with Chip that the copy labeled “a little better” and that labeled “even better” are really compelling. (Or look like they could be, from what I can tell).
    When I donate to an organization, I want to know what good it does in the world (in the particular cause I am interested in). The two examples I mention do that. Your copy doesn’t do enough of that, for me. I mean, maybe it could work, combined with a lot more info about IMPACT (in a storytelling kind of way), but I didn’t find what you wrote compelling. It plays to my ego, sure, but that’s not what I’m about when I donate. Since I’m unlikely to donate more than $100 to a cause (at this point in life), I would find it a bit pedantic if I received your copy. That is, I wouldn’t really believe I was your hero.
    Look forward to your response, Jeff. Thanks.

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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.

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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.


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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.

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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.

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