Hyperbole: the most important fundraising lesson you’ll ever learn

Marketing and fundraising are funny. You have to cut through a lot of informational clutter in the lives of the people you’re trying to reach. The only way to get their attention is to make a compelling promise. Show them you have something they want and need. Make sure they understand how important it is to them.

That’s what FundRaising Success was doing a few weeks ago. You can read about it at Margaret Battistelli’s blog, at A Personal Apology.

Apology? Well, they sent out a promotional email for their FundRaising Success Virtual Conference with the subject line: The most important link you’ll ever click..

Okay, there’s no way that’s the most important link you’ll ever click. It’s probably not even the most important link you’ll click that day, or even that morning.

The subject line is pure hyperbole. Margaret apologized because she recognized the complete vacuity of it.

But I want to cut Margaret some slack on that subject. Here’s why: Whenever you sell anything (and that includes fundraising), you must enter a mindset where you believe the hyperbole. If you don’t, you will write weak, equivocal copy that won’t cut through the clutter and won’t be effective.

In fact, that’s one of the most common causes of poor fundraising copy: The writer is thinking, “Here’s yet another same-old fundraising ask.” Instead, they should be thinking, “This is incredible. Important. World-changing. I’ve got to get everybody to say yes to this!” Everything you write with the intention of motivating people to action should have that sense of awe behind it. It should never be business as usual. Even when it’s business as usual.

I’m not saying you should send out fundraising full of unsupportable hyperbole. That’s not good marketing either. It’s not believable, and thus undermines all your credibility.

Your first draft should be littered with outrageous hyperbole. Your final draft should have none.


Comments

2 responses to “Hyperbole: the most important fundraising lesson you’ll ever learn”

  1. I agree Jeff. And there’s still an opportunity for this approach to be effective if the subject line were tweaked slightly: “This could be the most important link you’ll ever click.” or similar.
    Alternatively, the subject line could have been used in its original form, had the body copy provided the appropriate context. For example, it could start with “What *is* the most important link you’ll ever click?” And then go on to list a few plausible options, including one relating to the appeal. This might also be a good social campaign to get people posting what they think would qualify for them personally with an appropriate hashtag and landing page.
    Great post. Thanks!

  2. I agree Jeff. And there’s still an opportunity for this approach to be effective if the subject line were tweaked slightly: “This could be the most important link you’ll ever click.” or similar.
    Alternatively, the subject line could have been used in its original form, had the body copy provided the appropriate context. For example, it could start with “What *is* the most important link you’ll ever click?” And then go on to list a few plausible options, including one relating to the appeal. This might also be a good social campaign to get people posting what they think would qualify for them personally with an appropriate hashtag and landing page.
    Great post. 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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