Is ugly fundraising really beautiful?

Ugly makes beautiful fundraising. I’m not the only one who says so, Oneicity blog (among many others) knows it too and posts about it at Ugly direct mail works. Bottom line:

… if you want to improve your direct mail revenue, then be bold, embrace a little “ugly.” It’ll be OK, in fact, you may enjoy the income more than great design.

This is so consistently true, you should probably develop a “pretty filter” that will help you squash anything that looks too nice. Because it’s not going to work very well.

Given the positive impact of “ugly” to raise funds for good causes, doesn’t it seem that “ugly” is the wrong word? Shouldn’t we consider the style that motivates donors to give to be beautiful — and the other stuff that doesn’t work is ugly?


Comments

4 responses to “Is ugly fundraising really beautiful?”

  1. Totally agree! It should only be called ugly if you hate efficiently and effectively raising funds for your charity’s mission.
    I always tell my clients that if we hate the design we are probably on the right path.

  2. Totally agree! It should only be called ugly if you hate efficiently and effectively raising funds for your charity’s mission.
    I always tell my clients that if we hate the design we are probably on the right path.

  3. Susan Ruderman Avatar
    Susan Ruderman

    It’s an interesting thought about the semantics of “ugly.” (Just trying to imagine a design firm that prides itself on “We’ll deliver design so ugly you’ll raise more money than ever before”…) So we do need a better adjective to describe the kind of design that gets envelopes opened, letters read, messages understood, and reply devices used. I would call it “tested design” but too often the nonprofit hasn’t actually tested it and proven that bigger font does lift the response rate. “Motivational design” sounds too religious, as would “intelligent design.” Maybe “reaction-focused design”? That really is what we are getting at: you want design to cause an action that isn’t tossing it into the recycling bin.

  4. Susan Ruderman Avatar
    Susan Ruderman

    It’s an interesting thought about the semantics of “ugly.” (Just trying to imagine a design firm that prides itself on “We’ll deliver design so ugly you’ll raise more money than ever before”…) So we do need a better adjective to describe the kind of design that gets envelopes opened, letters read, messages understood, and reply devices used. I would call it “tested design” but too often the nonprofit hasn’t actually tested it and proven that bigger font does lift the response rate. “Motivational design” sounds too religious, as would “intelligent design.” Maybe “reaction-focused design”? That really is what we are getting at: you want design to cause an action that isn’t tossing it into the recycling bin.

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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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