The word that aims your fundraising message at your target

You probably wouldn’t enjoy the task somebody at Delta Air Lines got a few weeks ago: Write a message to your long-suffering customers about why things are so messed up right now.

Feels like a lose-lose situation.

This article in Inc.com shows how some brilliant copywriter made it a win-win: Delta Air Lines Just Sent a Brilliant Email to Millions of Passengers. This 1 Word Mattered Most.

That word?

You.

The 740-word message included the word 44 times. That’s 6% of the total word-count.

What’s good about that? The article proposes two things:

  1. It keeps the message on track, focused on the customer’s perspective.
  2. It offers a subtle, rhetorical reassurance to even the casual reader who only skims the message. This isn’t about us. It’s about you.

This is something you can do in your fundraising too.

I don’t want to give you the idea that you is some kind of magic talisman that makes your fundraising work. In fact, the CopyOptimizer (the forthcoming online tool from DonorVoice that analyzes fundraising copy and compares it to proven winning copy) assigns no positive value to “you.”

I think you is more of an “indicator species.” If there’s a lot of it, we’re probably looking at quality fundraising; if there’s not much, something is likely wrong with it.

Because fundraising that works is fundraising that enters the world of the donor, making it about what they can do to make the world a better place. It’s about the donor’s experience, values, and the impact they can have.

Not a recitation of the excellent qualities of the nonprofit seeking their donations.

It’s possible to clearly aim your message at the donor without 6%+ you, but that’s difficult. Why make things hard on yourself?


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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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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.