In his Weekend Review of October 11, Roger snuck in a reference to a rant by fundraising copy craftsman, Bob Levy. I’ve been worrying that our weekday readers might have overlooked this nugget, so I’m touting it again.

A lot of mail is scheduled to stream into mailboxes in the next ten weeks or so, in the midst of potentially overpowering financial trauma for many of the recipients. No matter how "well-off" you think your donors might be (or at least the best ones), when they get your next letter, have no doubt, they will be hurtin’ psychologically.

So why are they going to pay any attention to your appeal? Bob’s advice might help, now more than ever. He says things like communicate "intelligently" … use "messages that genuinely uplift" … be "truth-telling." And then he urges us to convey "something of substance, placing an organization’s mission within a real-life, 21st century context … talking without hyperventilating or fear mongering." You should read Bob’s piece.

In my own words, I would say that the fundraising appeals that will work in the balance of the year (and beyond, for that matter), will be those that are:

  • Personal — in tone, style and content;
  • Authentic — (not hyperbolic) in how they present your need; and,
  • Contextual — framing your need in a way that is mindful of today’s economic environment. You cannot ignore the elephant in the room, which is, for your donors: "I must conserve my resources for only my very highest personal priorities."

Accomplishing this is a matter of words — choosing them carefully and sensitively. I hope your copywiter is up to the challenge.


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