I was talking to the manager of a radio station about a fundraising special he'd aired.
"It got no response," he said. "So we re-made it and it worked great."
I asked him what was wrong with the original program.
"Nobody called in."
Why didn't they call in? Bad production?
"No, the production values were just fine."
So what was wrong?
He made a goofy, unctuous expression; his voice dropped down about an octave, and he said with way too much expression, Would you find it in your heart to give a special gift? The F and the T in "gift" were exaggeratedly over-enunciated. He was parodying the way radio professionals sometimes talk.
"It wasn't authentic," he concluded (in a normal voice). "It was too pretty."
He went on to talk about how commercial radio has a distinct sound: Well-modulated voices, blended together with tasteful, unobtrusive music. It sounds nice, but in the process, it fades into background sound for listeners much of the time.
If you want to be heard, you have to sound different.
You'll defeat yourself if you strive for perfect professional congruence with the surrounding material.
Same is true in other forms of fundraising, like direct mail or email. The message that works is the messy, odd, different one that doesn't look like the work of a professional. (Though it takes a real professional to give it that sense but still make it clear and compelling.)
How many millions of hours are spent making fundraising exactly wrong -- but nice and professional?
Our donors get marketed to all day. You'll do better if you don't seem to be part of that noise. Don't be too pretty.
(This post first appeared on October 26, 2012.)