3-Minute Copy Tune-Up
Spend three minutes now to make sure the copy for your year-end fundraising efforts is as effective as possible. Entire books are written on the art of copywriting. But here are some quick, proven tips for writing and editing copy to make it more compelling, easier for donors to understand and more likely to raise money!
Choose simple words and use short sentences. There’s a reason that newspapers write at the eighth-grade level — it’s easier to read and understand. But, how do you make sure to do that? Start by using simple words and short sentences. You’ll be more likely to connect with your donors and keep them reading when it’s easy to understand.
Read your copy aloud. It’s an extra step, but one that is well worth your time. Does your copy sing? Or do you find yourself stumbling as you read it? When you read it out loud, you’re more likely to catch clunky phrasing or awkward construction. Edit it out.
Make sure you ask for money clearly. This is critical! Make sure to include an ask on page one, and then again at the close of the letter. Be direct when you are asking the donor to contribute now, and be clear about what his or her gift will do. The case for giving should be strong — and unapologetic! Your mission is important and your donors care about it. Don’t be afraid to ask emphatically.
Replace one paragraph that is about your organization with one about your reader. In appeals, thank your donors for their past support, and recognize that it’s only thanks to their generosity that your work is possible. Make them feel special. They are.
Edit out extra words. Many writers add unnecessary adjectives and adverbs in an effort to make the letter stronger. If the writing is good, you should be able to cut the clutter and strengthen the copy.
If your PS doesn’t add something to the letter, write a new one. The best PS is one that adds an urgent fact to support your case for giving … touches the donors … reminds them of why they cared about your cause in the first place … or does all three. Even the reader who barely skims the letter is likely to read the PS. Make sure it is strong and supports the case for giving.
Cut your first paragraph or two. Often the real lead is buried a few paragraphs in.
And one bonus tip to make any writing you do easier:
Write fast, edit slowly. No matter what you are writing, you know that staring at a blank computer screen can be intimidating. One way to overcome writer’s block is to quickly throw all your ideas out on paper. Don’t worry about grammar or tone in your first draft — you will edit later. Just get all your thoughts out there. You can go back and fill in the holes, and edit for tone and readability later.
Good luck and happy writing!
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5 Statistics You May Not Be Thinking About — And Why You Should!
When it comes to direct response fundraising, one thing we have plenty of is statistics. Let’s face it, we measure everything. Unfortunately, in the face of an overwhelming amount of data, there are often key metrics that are neglected but reveal important information about your program. So just in time for year-end analysis and budgeting, here are some to watch!
1. Cost to Acquire a Donor
Formula: Net loss ÷ total donors acquired
This tells you how much ground you need to make up before a particular donor group becomes profitable. This cost is considered “after the fact” in calculating return on investment, but often looking at it right after an acquisition mailing can help you plan for the next one. For example, you can test things that may decrease expenses — or use more lists with a smaller investment for each new donor.
2. Suppression Match Percentage (on acquisition)
Formula: Number of names from an outside list that matched your suppression file of current donors ÷ number of names from that outside list
This tells you: On the positive side, if a list has a high percentage of your current donors on it, it is likely that it will work well since their donors care about the same thing as yours. However, if this percentage climbs rapidly from one acquisition to another, you may have acquired most of the donors who care about both issues. You may need to rest that list. Conversely, if there is a very low match rate it may not be the most responsive list.
3. Overlap Between Internal Prospects and External Lists
Formula: Number of internal prospects on outside lists ÷ number of total internal prospects
This tells you how many internal prospect names should be mailed. If a high percentage of internal prospects are giving to other groups in your market, your internal prospects are clearly good donors and you should mail them. If the percentage is on the margin (less than how lists in your market match each other) proceed with caution. If the percent is really low — find a very inexpensive way to test your internal prospects or do not mail them at all.
4. Fulfillment Cost Per Donor
Formula: Total acknowledgement and benefits expenses ÷ total donors receiving benefits
Many groups ignore these indirect costs when looking at the lifetime value of a donor. How much you are spending to service each donor (with acknowledgements, benefits, even 1-800# costs) is an important element since these costs can be controlled.
5. Percentage of first year vs. multi-year donors on the file
Formula: Total number of new donors (1 year or fewer) ÷ total number of donors
If retention rates suddenly drop, it may not be the economy; it may simply be the “reward” for a particularly successful acquisition period. New donors don’t renew as well as existing donors and if you have a lot of new donors on the file, your overall retention figure will naturally look lower (but in the long run, things will be better!).
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Have Your Cake — And The Icing Too!
It’s October — time to make sure your fundraising strategies are in order for year-end.
A tremendous amount of planning goes into this critical season — depending on the program size, complexity and revenue goals, this planning may have started as early as June.
But, whenever your planning began, it’s not too late to bolster response and revenue, and avoid some pitfalls! Here are a few ideas that could add the “icing” to what you’ve already baked for your year-end fundraising!
• October is a great time to secure matching gift funds from major supporters to create a matching fund for year-end efforts. This fund can be leveraged in the lower dollar mail, phone and online efforts to encourage giving. The matching gift is an easy and proven add-on strategy to the year-end report and other approaches you have planned.
• As we count off the remaining days of 2010, be ready with some campaigns for staff and volunteer leaders to use on the phone and email to bolster the big end-of-year mail push. A well-placed follow up to your better donors (think $100+, $250+ or even $500+, depending on your file) who have not responded to other efforts by early December could provide more revenue to help close any gaps. And, while on the phone, thank some of those better donors for their past support — especially since giving has become more fractured as the economy has continued to falter.
• With the many holidays in October, November and December, there are numerous potential strategic and creative tie-ins for marketing and fundraising. Online campaigns can take the best last-minute advantage of the energy around a particular holiday, or a current events item related to your cause.
• Finally, don’t forget that the vast majority of online revenue is raised in the last week of December! Be sure to structure your online appeals so you are asking at least twice during that time, to pull in as much revenue before December 31st as possible.
With some solid baseline planning and “icing” strategies like these, you’ll be sure to maximize your fundraising efforts and end the year on a sweet note!
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Client Profile: House of Ruth
For over 30 years, House of Ruth has been successfully helping women who were homeless and abused to build safe and stable lives for themselves and their children. More than 600 women and children in the Washington, DC area receive help from House of Ruth each day. The long-term assistance provided by House of Ruth includes housing, as well as the intensive services that women and families who were homeless need to build stable lives. At House of Ruth every woman and child is safe and cared for.
Over 20,000 loyal direct response donors support House of Ruth and the care provided to women and children in great need. Despite the challenging economy, these donors were very generous in 2010 and enabled House of Ruth to remain strong even though government and foundation support declined. Five mail campaigns in 2010 raised over $1 million to provide essential unrestricted funding.
“Since 1994, Lautman Maska Neill & Company has been instrumental in building our direct mail program,” says House of Ruth’s Director of Operations Joyce Grand. “We’ve worked together to create a resilient donor base that has supported our organization even when the economy is contracting,” she continued.
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Lautman Maska Neill & Company Helps Families Start The New School Year
Lautman Maska Neill & Company helped start the school year off right for many local families in need. In July, employees brought in charitable donations for local families. Items varied from clothes, to bedding and children’s toys. Amy Sukol said, “It’s such a great feeling to know that some of the things I no longer have a need for can be put to use by someone else!” Lautman Maska Neill & Company is proud to give back to our community!
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