Here’s a scary post from Copyblogger: 7 Ways to Write Damn Bad Copy. I’ve seen all of these. Done quite a few myself:
- Lyrical (excessively poetic)
- Sentimental (falsely emotional — but real emotion works)
- Outlandish (packed with poorly supported superlative claims)
- Humorous (you aren’t as funny as you think, and unfunny humor is the deadest kind of dead any copy can be)
- Short (short copy doesn’t usually persuade)
- Clever (nobody cares how smart you are)
- Advertorial (ad dressed up to look like a piece of news)
The problem with most of these things is they call attention to the writer. I have very sad news for you: Nobody cares how clever, funny, passionate, or deep you are. Even your mother doesn’t care. She’s just acting like she does because she loves you.
In fundraising, more than most disciplines, good copy is about the reader and about what they can do. That’s all. Save the look-at-me copy for … well, there really isn’t any good place for it. You can get away with it in poorly edited literary magazines.
The Concordat is the framework for developing effective partnership working between government and the VCS. It was agreed and signed by both the NI Executive and the VCS Group of the Joint Forum in March 2011.
I read a blog post a while back that was written by a young blogger, apparently new to fundraising but already pontificating on what we should and shouldn’t be doing in our fundraising messages.
Some of the points the blogger made were on target about how fundraising copy ought to be but often isn’t. But one of the points went like this:
I got a 12-page appeal letter in the mail. That’s ridiculous! Edit your copy!
The blogger apparently thought that the folks who sent the 12-page letter haplessly wrote a ridiculously long message and then neglected the important step of editing it down to a more reasonable length.
That blogger’s common sense says that a short, tightly written message will be more effective.
It makes sense.
But it’s wrong.
Longer messages do better, almost all the time. If you’ve been in the business (and paying attention), you’ve heard this. If you’ve tested it, you’ve seen it for yourself. I can almost guarantee you that the 12-page letter folks tested into that, and it works better than the tightly edited messages the blogger values so much.
I’d write 10 and 12 page letters all the time, but for one thing: Cost of paper.
Common sense tells us that precision is valuable, that one of the skills we should cultivate is saying a lot in a small space. But knowledge tells us otherwise.
Your common sense matters. But you can’t always use it as a guide for fundraising.
If Dante had been a fundraiser, his Inferno might have been slightly different, featuring the sins fundraisers are prone to commit. I have corrected Dante’s oversight. This is part eight of a nine-part tour of the levels of Fundraising Hell.
You thought Fundraising Hell couldn’t get any worse after seeing what’s happening to the Brand Cops?
Think again. (Evil laughter.) It gets worse as we drop down a massive cliff to the level of the Fraudulent — fundraisers who lied to donors.
These fundraisers were loose with the truth. They knew what kinds of stories moved donors to compassion, so they told those stories. Even when the stories weren’t true.
They fudged a statistic here, exaggerated a truth there. They failed to tell the truth.
You might wonder why these little white lies — told in service of good causes — land people so deep in Fundraising Hell. After all they are deeper in than fundraisers who did committed much more dramatic evils. After all, fundraisers who preferred to brag about themselves over connecting with donors are way up in the 4th level. And Greedy fundraisers who only took and never gave are up in the 3rd level. Heck, even Brand Cops are higher than these guys.
Well, those little lies might look insignificant to us, but the harm they do is immense: Many donors live in fear that we aren’t telling them the truth. In fact, one of the reasons people who never donate give is they don’t think charities are trustworthy. When we let untruths go out to donors, we confirm their fears. We make fundraising that much harder not only for ourselves but for all fundraisers — including the scrupulously honest ones. Worse yet, we put up a wall between donors and the causes they should be supporting.
For that, some of the Fraudulent are driven like cattle by demons with whips. Others are trapped head-first in tight holes, their feet on fire. Others just writhe forever, enveloped in flames that never go out.
Don’t lie! Not even a tiny bit! You don’t want to land in the 8th Level of Fundraising Hell!
Next Monday — Level 9: The Treacherous
- Level 1: Virtuous Unbelievers
- Level 2: The Lustful
- Level 3: The Gluttonous
- Level 4: The Greedy and Wasteful
- Level 5: The Wrathful
- Fundraising Hell, Level 6: The Heretics
- Level 7: The Violent
One of the most common self-inflicted injuries in fundraising is hard-to-read design. No matter how cool your design is, if it impedes readability, it is bad design.
Here’s some design help from the Hilborn blog, drawing on readability guidelines from The Canadian Association of Optometrists: Make your materials clear for older donors. Please don’t think this is only for elderly readers. Better readability is better for all ages.
- Printed material is most readable in black and white.
- Bigger is better. Keep your text large, preferably between 12 and 18 points
- Leading should be at least 25% to 30% of the point size.
- Avoid complicated or decorative fonts.
- Opt for fonts with medium heaviness and avoid light type with thin strokes.
- Don’t crowd your text: keep a wide space between letters.
- Break text into columns to make it easier to read.
- Use a matte or non-glossy paper to cut down on glare.
Do these things conflict with your brand guidelines or your personal preferences? If so, your guidelines (or preferences) are hurting you. It’s time to change them.