Follow the Straight and Narrow

in Direct Mail,Email,Fundraising,Marketing for Nonprofits

Did you ever receive that advice from your parents while growing up?

In broad terms it means that staying out of trouble leads to a more rewarding and successful life.  And doing the “right thing” is the path to follow.

In fundraising I too recommend the straight and narrow.

I’m not discussing ethics here (I’m assuming my readers are honorable).

I’m referring to how many topics (or programs) to cover in a fundraising appeal.   Even in acquisition don’t try to cover every program in your letters.  I know.  You don’t know with certaintiy which program will have the most appeal to a given donor.

Go with the odds.

Share a story about one person – let’s call him Sam – helped by one program.  Open with a brief story of Sam’s life without your nonprofit.  Then introduce how donors made it possible for Sam to get help from your charity.  Follow this thread throughout your letter.  Give us the before and after picture through a specifiy story example.

In acquisition you may want to BRIEFLY mention a few other programs (where you do this depends on the length of the letter), but still stay on the straight and narrow … keep a tight focus on what you’re writing about.

For renewals my preference is one program for one letter (or email).  For example: I just need a watch battery to get it going and not the strap, crystal, and every other component.

Again, show how the donor’s money made a difference in Sam’s life.  Let the donor know there are more Sams out there who need help and that’s why you’re asking for a donation today.

Specific examples within a narrow focus will likely give you higher response rates (and perhaps also a higher average gift amount) for better fundraising.  Test, tweak, and keep testing to fine tune the approach for your charity.  And stay on the straight and narrow.  I believe this holds true for any marketing channel and the vast majority of appeals and marketing campaigns – less is better.