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The Loyalty Letter

E-news that helps you keep donors connected (and giving)
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March 2015
Published by Lisa Sargent

Welcome, Nonprofit Professionals:

Last month I wrote about the importance of your fundraising offer, or "Ask" (among other things). And I used a real direct mail project to illustrate.

This month I promised we'd chat about specific ways you can craft that offer.

Then I got to thinking. Maybe knowing about things like HPC and MRG would help you too.

So the whole enchilada is in your Loyalty Letter below. Thanks for reading.

Meantime, has anyone seen Spring? It appears to have forsaken New England.

Until we meet next time... Write on!

Lisa Sargent
Sargent Communications

***Coming Next Month***
Nearly five years in the making! A longitudinal donor newsletter case study that blows preconceived notions about performance out of the water. For right now you can see the first overhaul that started it all, in the original case study from 2010. Then stick around for next month to discover how far it's come. A success story of which I am immensely proud to be a part. I hope you'll benefit from it.

Art of the Ask:
7+ Tips on Fundraising Offers and Reply Slips

As much as forty percent of the success of your next appeal rides on the strength of your “Ask,” or fundraising offer. Here are 7+ tips... try one, or test them all:

1. Use merge-field multipliers HPC and MRG to ask for the right amount. You already know that asking donors for too much or too little is a good way to kill your appeal. HPC (Highest Previous Contribution) and MRG (Most Recent Gift) help you avoid that.

Let's use HPC to exemplify, and assume that my highest gift ever was $500. On a reply slip, then, the ask strings are calculated from that, typically in multiples of 1.0, 1.5, and 2.0, or:

<<$HPC1.0>>, <<$HPC1.5>>, and <<$HPC2.0>>

Same goes for MRG. It emerges from your mailshop on an actual reply form like this:


Note: if you're wondering whether to use MRG or HPC, I have it on the advice of two extraordinarily smart fundraisers that for donors, eight out of ten times HPC and MRG are the same amount.

2. Consider an ask-string callout by circling one of the amounts on your reply slip (often the middle) or boxing off some copy with an arrow and copy that says, “This amount would really help.” You can also leverage social proof with copy like, “Our average gift is $xx. If you could send $xx or more [etc...].” The second example of an ask-string callout comes from Jeff Brooks, here.

And here's an example of that first ask-string call-out:

ask string

3. Try something other than “Other.” Ubiquitous on a reply slip, that last tickbox with the “other” write-in gift option is like the fifth crew member on Star Trek. (”Captain, I’ve found something... *cue screams and untimely off-screen death by creepy alien*... AHHHHHHH!”)

Next time, try “I prefer” or “My choice of”. Or even, “Surpise Us!” as this ask-string case study from SOFII illustrates -- or the incredibly giant gift option from SOFII (H/T Greenpeace).

4. Offer a money-back guarantee. Yup, you heard me. I’ve used them; they work. Superb if you have something specific for which you’re raising money, and a deadline. You let donors know that if you don’t make goal, you’'ll refund the gift. 99.9% will tick box or write in to say “keep it no matter what.” And they’'ll feel mighty good about it too.

FYI - there was once a great case study on SOFII about this; I can’t find it. But the gist lives in this post from The Helen Brown Group, part of which is the actual copy from a 2006 Habit for Humanity UK money-back guarantee:

“We already know from helping 125,000 extremely poor families build homes that this is the best way to help them out of poverty. But we want you to be sure, too. So when you send your £15 gift we'll make you a money-back guarantee.

If, after reading more about how we use your gift, you believe it hasn’t done what we’ve said, write to us within six months. We’ll send it back to you - every penny.”

5. Add a match. These you’ve seen a million times. They’re effective. Let’s say you get a grant, or a longtime supporter sends a big check. Ask if they’d let you double the good it will do by agreeing to let the gift be used in a match. Another upside to this is that it lets you use a deadline. And that builds urgency.

Here’s one of many examples out there, from Heifer:

match gift

6. Remove choice. It's true: faced with too many options, donors will do... nothing. As Neuromarketing's Roger Dooley says, “It’s been known for years that too many choices can reduce consumer purchases.” So now and then consider less choice -- right down to a single ask of one amount only.

7. Give ’em a reason. If I could give you one piece of required reading from this article, it would be For Impact's 9 Types of Funding Pitches. A one-page tip sheet with pitches you can adapt, from using "The Gap" to "Funding the Prototype" to “The Widget.” Good stuff. (H/T to Tom Ahern, who alerted his e-news readers to this in 2009.)

7+. Question all assumptions. Who says your reply slip needs to perf-off at the bottom (or top)? Who says it needs three amounts? Who says you can't include a “Sorry I can't give right now” option? I know many great organizations who challenge assumptions like these -- and do well by it -- every year.

The point is, crafting a good offer should never be an afterthought. And I hope the tips above, plus this evergreen SOFII article called “Why I Still Hate the Reply Device,” from Jerry Huntsinger, will get you thinking.

P.S. Subscribing to The Loyalty Letter is easy:
scroll up for handy sign-up form at the top of this page. 

And lastly, if ever you have a question on donor communications, send it along to The Loyalty Letter. All you have to do is:

Email me.

Or call: +001 (860) 881-7009

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