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The Loyalty Letter

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

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September 2010
Published by Lisa Sargent

Welcome, Nonprofit Professionals:

There was Mr. Fantastic. The Invisible Woman. The Human Torch. And my favorite, Thing. Kids and kids at heart knew this team of superheroes as The Fantastic Four.

Direct mail fundraising has its Fantastic Four, too...

I use at least one or two of these tried and true response boosters every time I write an appeal. You can, too.

They aren't glamorous. Or new. But they work. And that's what counts. See the article, below.

Thanks, as ever, for reading The Loyalty Letter. I'm glad you're here.

Until next month,

Lisa Sargent
Sargent Communications

P.S. If you aren't yet a subscriber, you can sign up free using the box at the top right of this page. And if you like this issue, please share. Thanks!

Meet “The Fantastic Four” of Direct Mail Fundraising

These proven response-boosters have been around since almost forever. But they still work. So if you haven't yet tested any in your donor communications, give them a try...

Direct Mail Fundraising Superhero #1:
The Envelope Teaser

The Teaser appears on the outer envelope. As the first of the Fantastic Four, its job is to entice donors and prospects to open the outer envelope of your appeal.

Because after all, even the best copywriting in the galaxy won't work if no one reads it.

Let's break into The Loyalty Letter's swipe file to have a look at some real-world examples:

1. From North Shore Animal League: Your beautiful holiday labels are enclosed...

2. From Susan G. Komen for the Cure: Turn your passion into progress! And stamped to the right of the address window: Gift Enclosed.

3. Here's one from Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation, here in my home state of Connecticut: "It was unbelievable... and it saved my life"

4. And SmileTrain: Make one gift now and we'll never ask for another donation again!

5. From the International Campaign for Tibet: positioned in the upper left corner (where you'd normally look for a return address): A Message from His Holiness the Dalai Lama Enclosed.

6. The Connecticut Audubon Society: (beneath the photo of a wide-eyed owl) Milton is a people friendly 'teacher' at Connecticut Audubon Society, who seems to enjoy his role as an educator whether during the day or night! See where to meet him inside...

In his book, How to Write Successful Fundraising Letters, Mal Warwick (another fundraising superhero) tells us an envelope teaser fills nine or more different needs, from describing the contents of the envelope (one reason why the outer envelope of your donor newsletter should say something like: "Your Newsletter Enclosed") to asking a question to starting a story.

He also says this: "Often the best teaser is no teaser at all. Fundraising letters are almost always crafted to mimic personal letters, so teasers may well cheapen or undermine the effect the writer wants to achieve."

The takeaway? Don't use the teaser just to fill white space on the envelope. Make sure you've got a good reason, and a clear, concise, engaging message.

Direct Mail Fundraising Superhero #2:
The Johnson Box

For the record, copywriter Frank Johnson denied inventing the Johnson Box. But everyone else insists he did. He passed away in 2001.

Positioned above the salutation at the top of an appeal letter, Johnson Box copy is designed to get your prospect's attention, enticing them to read the letter.

Regardless of its inventor, claims about the magical response-boosting powers of the Johnson Box in direct mail are legion, ranging to forty percent. (Take with a grain of salt.)

Now back to the swipe file for a legendary direct mail letter from the ASPCA, the "Astro" letter:

His belly was empty. So empty it hurt. The back door would open and shut, and Astro would hope for food. But his abuser never brought any. In fact, he didn't even look at Astro as he came and went. Astro drank out of a puddle near the stake he was chained to. The dirty water kept him alive, but then the puddle dried up. Astro had only a few days to live.

Dear Friend...

This is Johnson Box copywriting at its finest, folks.

My advice to you on these is don't get too wrapped up in format. I've written them as short as two lines, no photo, to as long as three short paragraphs beside a full-color photo.

The trick in writing them is to leave 'unfinished business,' so your reader is pulled into the body copy of your letter.

Let your story tell itself, like Astro's does. (As the sappy owner of two rescued dogs, it still gets to me. And if you're wondering what happened to Astro, read #3, below...)

Direct Mail Fundraising Superhero #3:
The P.S.

Back to Frank Johnson (see #2 above). He didn't want to be known for the Johnson Box, but he did claim discovery of what he called "the working P.S." -- otherwise known as the Postscript.

I use 'em, almost all the time. Even in donation thank-you letters and e-mails. And I hope you will too.

There's an oft-quoted statistic from Professor Siegfried Vogele's eye-tracking studies, which says that more than 90 percent of people who read your letter will read the P.S. first. (My source for this is George Smith's Asking Properly.)

What can you put in a postscript?

You can repeat a deadline and/or sum up the Big Idea in an appeal... add an Ask... include an invitation to call or visit... sum up benefits... add a last-minute 'grand finale' thought... and almost always say thank-you again.

Have a look at the closing of Astro's letter:

P.S. Astro is now up to 95 pounds and living with the wonderful family who adopted him. With your financial support, the ASPCA can reach out to animals like Astro and so many others. Their only hope is caring people like you. Please rush your gift to stop cruelty to animals today.

And from the SmileTrain appeal:

P.S. One of the things our supporters like most about helping SmileTrain is that all it takes is one surgery to save a child forever. Even in today's uncertain economy, this is an "investment" in a poor child's future that will continue paying dividends for a little kid's entire life. Thank you.

Direct Mail Fundraising Superhero #4:
The Lift Letter.

The Lift Letter accompanies and complements your main appeal. Its job is to add to the main letter and, usually in the case of nonprofits, add credibility. The font is usually different, and it may be on a different color paper, in the smaller, Monarch note-size, and is always from a different signatory.

Again, for nonprofits these signatories are usually: grateful patients of a hospital, volunteers or field workers for a specific program, and of course, donors. Typically its also written by the signatory, though edited by the copywriter.

I can think of one lift letter I wrote for a volunteer (he didn't enjoy writing, and asked if I'd do it for him, with his approval). It "lifted" donations from a middle donor appeal by more than ten percent over the year prior.

But that said, don't run out willy-nilly and start popping lift notes into everything. Best of all is to test it against the same package without a lift, and see.

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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“Don't waste your time by going to the SOFII website. Stay away
from it. Don't say good things
about it...”

Those words belong to Jerry Huntsinger, a.k.a. The Dean of
Direct-Mail Fundraising. He penned them during his 'SOFII whisper campaign.' Why?

Well, he also said this: "But I don't want my competitors or my clients or anyone else to see all this good stuff so I've decided to launch a whisper campaign against SOFII. And I'm sure that some of the folks who run conferences and conventions are going to share my concern and help me in this, because they are going to lose a lot of attendees when people find out that a one hour tour through the pages of SOFII will harvest more great ideas than three days of conventioneering."

Seriously.Who would you tell?

I'm telling you:
SOFII has a dazzling new website.

The question is:
Will I see you at the all-new SOFII?


Sargent Communications 
PO Box 814, Wolfeboro, NH 03894
Voice: +001 (860) 881-7009

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