dmYesterday’s mail brought me a wonderfully written, one page, six paragraph sales letter soliciting my donation to a local foundation.  It’s formatted nicely, is hand signed, and accompanies a professional looking donation card.

I bet they don’t raise much money.

The problem with the letter is that it’s about them, not me. It’s weak in its solicitation and never tells me what my money buys or how it will be used.

Here’s how the letter’s laid-out:

  • Paragraph one is about the foundation – formation date, affiliation, heritage. Who cares?
  • Paragraph two is a problem statement, a weak one. Apparently they can’t sustain their growth. Growth in what and why I should care is left out.
  • Paragraph three is about their foundation being smaller than others and the need to strengthen our chapter through membership. I still have no idea what they are talking about or why I should care.
  • Paragraph four states they have many ambitious goals and the leadership and motivation to achieve them. I’m never told what the goals are, what they want me to do, who benefits, and why I should care about any of it.
  • Paragraph five finally asks for my donation. I’m not asked for anything specific and again am not told what’s in it for me, how my donation will be used, and who the ultimate beneficiary is.
  • Paragraph six thanks me for my support.

Raising money for a foundation is little different from selling a product or service — I’ve sat on the board of an education foundation and worked with several non-profit corporations to attest first-hand to that fact.

Here’s a simple exercise to see if you’re making the same mistakes

Look at your sales copy – sales letter, website, brochure, landing page, flyer, etc. Read the first two paragraphs and the last. Lay the copy aside and ask yourself three questions as through you were a member of the target audience:

  1. What is this thing about?
  2. Why should I care?
  3. What am I being asked to do?

If you can’t accurately and clearly answer those three questions, neither can whomever you’re sending it to.

Never be afraid to be overt. If you want something, ask for it. If you want someone to act, tell them what to do. Let your reader know what, when, why, and how. And tell them why they should.

What say you?

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