I've just gone through the direct-mail swipe file, looking for really superb donor-focused copy.
Bad news: I didn't find any. I found a lot of self-focused, look-at-me copy. I found a few examples that were not quite so bad. I even found a couple that were decent, if not great. I'll show you a few:
It is amazing to realize that the most significant advancements in the treatment of [disease] have been made in my lifetime. Even more astonishing is the fact that so many of these advancements have originated right here in [City].
This guy must walk around with his eyes closed. Couldn't even say "in your lifetime." It's an unpromising start to a letter that's resolutely self-centered, never making even the slightest move toward being about donors.
A little better
In remote places you'll never visit, I conditions you could never imagine, and in the eyes of children you'll never see, there is unthinkable suffering.
I'll tell you about it.
And once you hear of these horrific stories, I believe -- and hope -- that you'll help.
Give them credit for frequent use of you. The copy isn't at all about the donor, but it's at least involving the reader in the story they're telling.
You are invited to join a special group of community-minded people whose generosity helps support one of [area's] most treasured and beloved institutions -- [name of organization]. When you accept this invitation to become a [member], you are supporting a century-old tradition of reading an learning at one of the largest and most widely respected [Type of organization] in the world.
Again, here's an organization talking about itself. But they're talking about how the donor connects to the organization, so it's somewhat more effective and likely to get donors' attention.
Let us introduce you to one of your neighbors, a 27-year-old woman named Veronica.
You may not know Veronica, but you have a lot in common. Like you, Veronica knows the value of a dollar. Like you, Veronica takes pride in her ability to take care of herself and her family without relying on others. Like you, Veronica is concerned about how a sudden catastrophic illness could turn her life upside-down.
Not exactly about the reader, but it really does draw the reader into the story with its clear call to the reader to get into the story.
Unfortunately in this batch of letters, I couldn't find any truly donor-focused copy. That's how it goes. Not that many fundraisers are focusing tightly on donors. So I had to write some:
You are my hero.
You're one of those unusual people who doesn't just feel sorry for hungry people -- you do something about it. Your record of compassionate giving make [Area] a better place every day.
That's why you're a hero.
Never forget: Good fundraising is about the donor. It's not about you.
Don't ask donors to support your cause. Show them how your organization can help them support their cause.
(This post first appeared on February 18, 2011.)