Writing an Effective Direct Mail Appeal

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2 Writing an Effective Direct Mail Appeal The 6 main characteristics Key preparation steps Cardinal rules Tips, examples and resources Writing an Effective Appeal 2

3 Other topics? Securing funds to support a direct mail program launch and/or expansion Writing an Effective Appeal 3

4 Basic Rules of the Direct Mail Game Leave your personal feelings about direct mail outside the office. Give up prose and intellectual writing for simple direct mail writing style. Repeat yourself. Assume a friendly and warm approach with individuals you have never met and will most likely never meet. Writing an Effective Appeal 4

5 What is a Direct Mail Appeal? It is an appeal from one person to another It describes the organization s work and needs, but more importantly, it gives the recipient (prospective or current donor) an opportunity to satisfy a personal need by supporting the organization s work It invites the recipient to take specific and immediate action (most often to send a gift) for which they will receive certain benefits Writing an Effective Appeal 5

6 The 6 Main Characteristics of Effective Direct Mail Fundraising Appeals 1. Clarity: - no ambiguity about intent or action needed - clear message, stated early on in the letter and repeated throughout the appeal 2. Cohesiveness: - components of the package work together to reinforce your message 3. Authenticity and Fit: - represent your work and the need in a credible manner - good fit between the organization, appeal and the signer Writing an Effective Appeal 6

7 Cont d: 6 Main Characteristics of Effective Direct Mail Fundraising Appeals 4. Ease of Response: - it is clear what the reader needs in order to respond immediately, and the necessary items are present 5. Appropriateness: - write to your audience: the message must be of interest to the reader and the request is something the reader is likely able to provide 6. Engaging Copy: - your package catches and holds onto the reader s attention Writing an Effective Appeal 7

8 Mechanics of a Direct Mail Appeal Letterhead (organization s logo/name/address on the first page) Salutation Signature line, clearly indicating signer s relationship to the recipient A lead to start the letter and a close to end it A P.S. (often reiterating the request) Writing an Effective Appeal 8

9 Outer Envelopes Writing an Effective Appeal 9

10 Cont d: Outer Envelopes Writing an Effective Appeal 10

11 One more outer envelope Writing an Effective Appeal 11

12 A Reply Device Writing an Effective Appeal 12

13 Preaddressed Return Envelopes Writing an Effective Appeal 13

14 Writing an Effective Direct Mail Appeal: Section 2 The 6 main characteristics Key preparation steps Writing an Effective Appeal 14

15 Two basic questions to answer as you prepare to write the appeal 1. To whom are you writing? 2. Why? Writing an Effective Appeal 15

16 Additional questions to help you determine the appeal s details What is the minimum amount of money you hope to receive? You must ask for a specific and right amount. Is there anything else you d like the reader to do? Sign a petition? Send a letter to their Senator/Rep? How can you entice the reader to act now? Is there a deadline by which you need the money? Consequences of not meeting the deadline? Is there a matching challenge? Writing an Effective Appeal 16

17 Cont d: Additional questions to help you determine the appeal s details Who is the signer and what is his/her relationship to the organization and appeal recipients? What are the recipient s benefits of responding? - keeping in mind your audiences interests, emphasize the benefits of responding (healed torture survivors; awareness raised; policy changed, etc...) Writing an Effective Appeal 17

18 Double check your preparation Is there a clear central message? Do you have a specific request(s)? Is it clear what the reader needs to do? Is it easy to respond? Why should the reader respond? Specific benefits listed? Are there multiple pieces to your package, and if so, do they communicate the central message. Cohesive appeal? Writing an Effective Appeal 18

19 Questions about Preparation Steps? Writing an Effective Appeal 19

20 Writing an Effective Direct Mail Appeal: Section 3 The 6 main characteristics Key preparation steps Cardinal rules Writing an Effective Appeal 20

21 Cardinal Rules for Writing a Direct Mail Appeal 1. Use I and You. Appeal directly to your reader 2. Focus on the positive and the benefits of giving 3. Be direct about your request - ask for money and not support (please send your gift today; your generous contribution today will ; by sending a gift of $50 or more) 4. Write a package and not just a letter (have a matching reply device, return and outer envelope) Writing an Effective Appeal 21

22 Cont d: Cardinal Rules for Writing a Direct Mail Appeal 5. Write in simple, short, direct sentences 6. Format for easy reading 7. State why a gift should be sent now 8. Write as long a letter as you need (to state your case and repeat it, but make sure to address relevant information only) Writing an Effective Appeal 22

23 Questions about Cardinal Rules? Writing an Effective Appeal 23

24 Mal Warwick s self-assessment form Writing an Effective Appeal 24

25 Self-assessment form score evaluation Writing an Effective Appeal 25

26 Writing an Effective Direct Mail Appeal: Section 4 The 6 main characteristics Key preparation steps Cardinal rules Tips, examples and resources Writing an Effective Appeal 26

27 Working with Mal Warwick Associates Has provided CVT with Access to expertise in acquisitions (good knowledge of universe available to CVT) and program development Benefits of extensive direct mail testing (on behalf of other clients as well as CVT) Access to a number of direct mail professionals Benefits of a long-term relationship that allows us to avoid reinventing the wheel Access to a range of services - consulting, production, results tracking and analysis. Writing an Effective Appeal 27

28 Torture Rehab work in Direct Mail Three main challenges: 1. Depressing Appeals - Focus on Hope and Healing. Develop a positive brand. 2. HIPAA prevents publicity - Tell client stories but change identifying information. - Use photos of places where clients come from. Use art that is representative of clients and their backgrounds. 3. Under-representation in mainstream society - Make the case that torture abroad affects our communities here - public health, productive community members, etc. Writing an Effective Appeal 28

29 Cont d: Torture Rehab work in Direct Mail Appeals Opportunities: 1. Unique and innovative work - Impact of torture rehab centers is increasing 2. Humanitarian in nature, but relevant locally - Donors are attracted to international and humanitarian causes - Our work reflects national values 3. Relevant for public education and policy - Speak up but remain nonpartisan in advocacy efforts Writing an Effective Appeal 29

30 Additional Agenda Items Securing funds to support a direct mail program launch and/or expansion - expanding and/or launching a direct mail campaign is an organizational investment - community foundation grants for organizational development - individual major donors - program expansion as an incentive for matching grants Writing an Effective Appeal 30

31 Cont d: Additional Agenda Items Final Questions CVT Year-end appeal example Tips from Stephen Hitchcock, Mal Warwick Associates Senior Consultant Writing an Effective Appeal 31

32 Writing an Effective Appeal 32

33 Writing an Effective Appeal 33

34 Writing an Effective Appeal 34

35 Writing an Effective Appeal 35

36 CVT Year-End Appeal Reply Device Writing an Effective Appeal 36

37 CVT Year-End Appeal Return Envelope Writing an Effective Appeal 37

38 CVT Year-End Appeal Outer Envelope Writing an Effective Appeal 38

39 A Dozen Tips for effective Fundraising Letters by Steve Hitchcock, MWA Senior Consultant (1) Write a letter not an essay (2) Write a letter to just one person not to "Dear Friends" or "Dear Members" (3) Write a letter that looks like a letter (4) Be friendly and informal use the first and second person (5) Ask for a specific gift... within a specific time period... for a specific purpose (6) Always use a P.S. (7) Before you begin writing, be sure you know who's getting this letter major donors? loyal donors? regular members? prospects who have never given before? (8) When writing to donors, praise their generosity and loyalty (9) Organize your letter around one central concept about why the reader should send you a gift today (10)Observe the standards of readability avoid long sentences and big (and hard-topronounce) words (11)Use "direct mail sentence structure" simple and compound sentences and only occasional use of complex sentences (12)Remember how direct mail letters are read: signature first, then the P.S.... then the first paragraph, perhaps indented paragraphs and underlined words. Readers scan letters quickly and skip entire sections, so state your main arguments more than once. Writing an Effective Appeal 39

40 Ten Things You Can Do to Improve Direct Mail Results without spending a dime, by Stephen Hitchcock (1) Get your thank you letters out quickly. It s more important to let people know their gift was received and appreciated than it is to craft the perfect and highly personalized letter. (2) If you re using first class postage, imprint FIRST CLASS below the meter on the outer envelope. (3) Instead of using outer envelopes with your organizations logo in the left corner, use plain envelopes and then have the name of the person signing the letter and the organization address imprinted by inkjet or laser in the upper left corner. (4) Instead of a brochure, add an extra page to your letter. With one or two pages of typewritten, letter-style text, you can tell a more friendly and personal story that illustrates the principles or programs that are described in your expensive brochure. (5) Test return envelopes PSRE ( Place Stamp (Here) Reply Envelope ) vs. BRE (Business Reply Envelope prepaid). (6) Increase the point size of the text of your letter and of your reply device by one or two points. Readability increases dramatically with 11 and 12 point versus 10 point. (7) Occasionally omit the option to make a gift via credit card. Not only will your organization save the discount on the credit card gift (and the cost of failed credit cards), but you may actually get a higher response to your mailing. (8) If you re letter doesn t include a P.S., add one. If you don t have a paragraph with an explicit request to make gift, add one. If you don t have a deadline, suggest a specific date (first class postage) or a number of days (nonprofit standard postage). (9) Trade either the quantity you mail or the postage used on the outer envelope so you can add live (first class) stamps to the reply envelope (an LSRE). (10) Persuade your communications department to send out the organization s newsletter four times or six times a year. If necessary reduce the number of pages or use less expensive paper, but communicate more frequently with your donors. (11) Make sure the signature of the person signing the letter is legible even if you don t use the person s real signature. (12) Double indent some paragraphs break up paragraphs that are over seven lines long include underlining (but only under individual words) or italics in at least every third paragraph. (13) Be sure you re printing black ink on white or cream (or very light gray, blue, or green) stock. Other colors of ink (for text) and unusual colors of paper are expensive and in some cases actually reduce response. Writing an Effective Appeal 40

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