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The Loyalty Letter

E-news that helps you keep donors connected (and giving)
to your cause.

November 2009
Published by Lisa Sargent

Dear Reader,

A big welcome this month to all who've subscribed via my guest post in The Agitator. I'm delighted you're here!

Now down to business. Like many freelance nonprofit copywriters, I've been immersed in direct mail holiday appeals for weeks, and the email appeals are just kicking in...

...Which brings me to this issue. In Article One, specially for you email fundraisers, five tips to help you with your web-based holiday fundraising and relationship-building with online donors.

And, you're nearly out of time to roll out that direct mail holiday appeal. So if you have a working draft in hand and you want to make it sing before you send to your printer, see Article Two.

Enjoy. Share. And thanks, as always, for subscribing. (And to my fellow US-based fundraisers: Happy Thanksgiving!

Lisa Sargent
Sargent Communications

P.S.'s Joanne Fritz said, "Don't do anything else until you see if your website commits any of these faux pas that Lisa Sargent revealed on the blog of The Agitator." Want the full report? PDF here: 99 Nonprofits.

Five Fast Tips to Help You With Your Web-Based Holiday Fundraising

A success story to steal from the BtoB world, horizontal gift strings and more...

The first two tips in this list deserve special mention: they come from a gem of a guide that recently arrived with my copy of DMNews, called "E-mail Marketing Essential Guide."

I received the print version. But the online format (access via above link) is the coolest thing since sliced bread. Cool factor aside, the guide is tops for email fundraisers.

Now for that tip list:

1.) Embed video in your email appeals? Try this instead. Marketing experts at Allstate and Patagonia say it's still a bad idea to directly embed video in your emails, for three reasons: it's too bulky, it can send you to spam filters, and it's tricky to view. Instead, they say, drop in a static picture of the video, then link it to the player (such as on You Tube, e.g.). And from me: don't forget alt-tag text for pictures. (From DMNews guide, link above, pages 4-5.)

2.) Test serialized welcome emails for new subscribers. Steal this success story from BtoB: Sony tested two versions of welcome emails to new members of its loyalty club: one a single message, the other, a three-part welcome series (sent on days one, four and seven, each offering additional details and benefits). The serialized message delivered 627% more clicks than the one-message version, without any increase in unsubscribes. (From DMNews guide, link above, page 6. And more on welcome emails from me.)

3.) Online, go horizontal with your gift string layout. No, I'm not getting racy. In a landing page optimization report by Donordigital, a horizontal layout for gift strings on a donation landing page was tested against a vertical layout. The result? Horizontal beat vertical by twenty-one percent.

4.) Keep it short, sweet and "top-heavy." Subject lines around 35 characters, email messaging definitely below 650 words (and 400 or so is better). By top-heavy, I mean get to the point of your e-appeal in the first few lines. Take too long, and risk losing readers.

5.) For better donor communications flow online, ask "What happens next?" You have a great email appeal, and you can't wait to send it. But stop for a minute, and think: when the donor clicks, what happens next? Where will they click to? What does that landing page look like? Then if they give, what happens next? Are they redirected to a thank you page? And do you then have trigger-based emails in place to thank them, welcome them, and acknowledge their gifts?

Moving on to Article Two...

Help Your Holiday Direct Mail Appeals Dazzle: A Nonprofit Copywriter’s Editing Tips

Your holiday appeals deserve action. But first, your prospects have to read those appeals. Let's look at several things you can do to make that happen:

This month I received a direct mail appeal from a major US animal welfare nonprofit that suffered from the dreaded "Wall of Type" curse.

No indented paragraphs. Six point leading between paras. Half-inch left margin, and (it's true) a quarter-inch of white space on the right. For my friends overseas, that's 0.635 cms! Add unbroken chunks of text, six lines long, and voila: an impenetrable wall of type.

So while I realize the following tips may sound basic to many of you, my aim is true: to help you deliver a holiday appeal that's readable and effective.

Seven edits for your holiday direct mail appeals:

1. Avoid one-page cram downs. "Short copy vs. long copy" debate aside, don't cram the entire letter on a single side, or you'll end up with a Wall of Type... rendering your letter unreadable. (Note: long copy almost always wins. More on this in the future.)

So: Serif font. Indent paragraphs. Healthy margins (At least 1 inch, plus I use ragged, 1.25 inch right.) No microscopic leading between paras. Font at least ten, twelve is better.

2. Defeat MEGO (My Eyes Glaze Over). Jargon and other empty words fuel MEGO and send your appeal on a one-way trip to the rubbish. What's jargon? Technical terms, yes, but also words like "stakeholder" and "institutional." (Tom Ahern covers nonprofit jargon best.) Empty words? Think "unique"... "world class"... "cutting edge." See this on gobbledygook.

3. Hunt down we. Like a bloodhound on a hot scent, you must obsessively sniff out "we" in your appeals, and transform it into you-based language.

4. Watch be. Forms of the verb "to be" slumber like vampires, waiting to suck the life out of your appeals. Aim for active verbs -- soothe, steep, bask, savor. Like that.

5. Save correctly. Wikipedia tell us the A4 letter format is standard almost everywhere in the world (not US). If you use, size your working drafts right from the start: go to File>Page Setup>Paper>Paper Size>A4. (FYI: with adequate white space, you'll get about 925 words on a one page, double-sided A4 letter, Johnson Box and PS included.)

6. Think conflict and resolution. If your appeal tells a story (please say it does), you'll better engage the reader by staging it like a TV drama: begin with a conflict, and see the reader through to the resolution. In terms of editing, this often means simply rearranging your paragraphs and adding a snappy segue.

And whether you raise money online or offline this holiday, don't forget the most important thing of all:

7. Say thank you. Some of you have already visited my "live," before-and-after donor thank you letter clinic on SOFII. So you know I'm passionate about thank you letters. And outspoken. Still, just about every expert out there says there's no better way to boost donor retention than thanking your donors properly. This copywriting clinic and checklist (for direct mail) can help.

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:


Or call: +001 (860) 881-7009.

On Skype: lisa.sargent96.

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Email fundraisers, I'll say it again... this no-cost guide can't be beat:

Email Marketing Essential Guide

from DMNews


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