Boost nonprofit marketing with direct response copywriting fundamentals

in Copywriting - Nonprofit,Fundraising,Marketing for Nonprofits

The Agitator summarized an article by Denny Hatch (publisher of Target Marketing).  Denny shares some direct response copywriting fundamentals.  And friends, they’re pure gold whether you’re a nonprofit or a for-profit organization.

I repeat five of Denny’s bullets/fundamentals here, and then add my thoughts on what it means for your nonprofit fundraising appeals:

  • The right offer should be so attractive that only a lunatic would say no.

Yes, framing the right offer is also vital to fundraising letters.  First, how will you use the money you’re asking for?  Second, what’s the benefit to the donor for giving you the money (it may be purely emotional or spiritual)?  And is there anything else you’re doing for them (a premium, prayer intentions)?  Now wrap that complete offer up in tight, stirring copy.

  • Make it easy to order.

EASY FOR THE DONOR and not necessarily what’s easiest for you.  This may mean giving them choices on how they send you their money.  Also make the donation form or reply slip easy to read and easy to follow.  Only ask for the information you need (and please don’t confuse “need” with “want”).

  • Inserting a deadline will create a sense of urgency. Choose your deadline carefully. A date too far in advance has no urgency. On the other hand, pick a date that’s too close and if for some reason the mailing is delayed, your effort is chopped liver.

My word of caution is to choose a real deadline.  Sometimes it may be something like, “before the next snowstorm hits;” or “before the bitter cold of winter sets in.”  But sending money before the end of the fiscal year so you can pay bills is not a good choice.  Donors will think you can’t manage money properly.

  • The more of the key copy drivers—the emotional hot buttons that change behavior—that you can insert into your effort, the more powerful your argument. Those copy drivers are: fear – greed – guilt – anger – exclusivity – salvation – flattery.

For fundraising copy a few more of the drivers include altruism, moral obligation based on faith, patriotism, etc.

Now, how do you write that emotional copy?  For me, one of the best ways to write copy that invokes emotions is through my imagination.  I close my eyes and immerse myself in the life of the person (i.e., the beneficiary of your mission) I’m writing about in the letter.  What are they seeing, feeling (emotionally and physically), smelling, touching, tasting?  What is their life like?  How would I feel in their shoes?  I do my best to “become that person” and then I write about what I experienced in my imagination.

  • Use flattery. Analyzing more than 1,000 mailings, the late guru Axel Anderson—a brilliant statistician—discovered that 42 percent used flattery.

As you thank and praise donors, you must sound sincere.  So if this is genuinely how you feel in your heart – and it’s not about collecting checks – then your sincerity will naturally shine through in your letter. 

And you must also write a donor-centered letter.   You’ve heard it before: It’s NOT about YOU.  It is all about the donor!  It’s not what you’re doing but rather what the donor is accomplishing.  For example . . . How Mrs. Sample (i.e., your donor) made it possible for 42-year old Sarah to learn how to read. 

Like any great sports team, if you focus on the fundamentals you’ll win more often.  Your nonprofit will acquire and retain more donors and raise more money.  Just incorporate these copywriting direct response fundamentals into your appeals, web copy, emails, etc. and you’ll help even more people through your mission.