We all know that successful direct marketing fundraising requires all components of the effort to be the best possible. Strong strategy can be derailed by sloppy design, the best strategy and design can fail with crucial production errors, and good strategy, design, and production can all fall flat when the copy is weak.
As a person who has been in the industry working closely with professionals on all aspects of direct marketing for … um … several years … I’ve had the opportunity to ask these experts what it is that makes their piece of a project the best it can be. And while working with the highly skilled writers here at Impact, I’ve observed a few things firsthand that clearly contribute to some of the best copy being written.
Here is a list of a few quick reminders to (stringing together a couple of old Jerry Maguire quotes) … “Help me, help you” … “show you the money”.
These are essential and if working with an agency, it’s absolutely best if to have the creative meeting with some of the organization staff as well – even if that only happens quarterly, hearing issues, projects, and stories directly is invaluable.
Materials – lots of them, everything possible.
Although I’ve always known that writers spent time immersing themselves in client background, I am surprised by how much time is truly dedicated to this step. And it shows in how the writer is then able to convey the right voice, emotion, and information. To further emphasize the importance of the first point above, if consistently meeting with organization staff there is generally better access to materials, because we can say, “please send us that.”
Stories, stories, stories.
As a rule, even the organizations with the most cerebral or the most intellectually motivated donors get better results with stories. It’s still true that people give to people, people give when they are motivated by emotion, and stories are the best way to touch the heartstrings of donors.
There’s nothing like speaking directly to someone – whether it’s a donor, program staff, or a client who has been served by the program. Being able to ask questions allows a writer to delve into a part frequently missed when a story is delivered secondhand … “the before” … as in what was it like before this program or this organization existed. A powerful transformation story produces the most authentic and emotional narrative.
Flexibility & open mindedness.
If clients are open when it comes to all aspects of a piece – including format and length – creative brainstorming has a greater chance to end with a new idea and/or a more productive effort. For example, when a client is asked how long they would like a piece to be, and they say, “Well, we were thinking probably two pages, but if you need to make it four to do justice to the story, then go for it.” The most important thing is to have a compelling piece to send to the donors. And sometimes to fully tell the story, more space is needed.
The best copy is a multi-person effort – it takes more than just a great writer … if you are the client or the agency, it includes you too!
-Posted by Paige Sipe
Paige Sipe has been consulting for several clients with Impact Communications since November 2013. Paige has worked on fundraising and marketing campaign development and implementation for nearly 18 years.