I’ve beaten a fair number of fundraising controls over the years, but only recently did I stop to compare my overall approach to that taken by most copywriters. Here it is:
Most writers assume that readers will start at the opening of a letter and read through to the end.
Pretty much all clients have this expectation. They review a letter by starting at the opening and reading to the end. Pretty much all reviewers look for some logical progression of ideas. First this, then that, and therefore the other thing. The crisis / case for giving, how your donation will help us fulfill our mission, now make a gift.
My assumption: Readers will pick up the four page letter, look at their name in the salutation, flip over to the P.S., then shuffle the letter around in their hands, maybe start reading here, maybe start reading someplace else, jump around a bit, and then, after this ragged scanning, MAYBE start reading at the beginning.
Chances are pretty good that they will have made a giving decision before they start at the top. They will certainly know what’s being asked of them. If they read from the beginning, it’s to gain some intellectual rationale for the irrational decision to give away their hard-earning money.
Some clients balk at this because it usually means a half dozen requests for money throughout the letter.
Content is repetitive. Key case-for-giving points are made again and again.
And it can LOOK CRAZY! … with lots of ellipses, block indents, bold-face type, underscoring and even ALL CAPS.
The purpose of all these visual clues, of course, is to cue readers to start RIGHT THERE if something looks the least bit interesting.
Sure, there’s progression of ideas. On a good day, the emotion of the letter builds over the pages. But nonetheless, the letter is always structured to sell readership throughout the letter, no matter where the reader’s eyes may land.
So it takes more than looking crazy. But repetition and a crazy look are good signs you’re on the right path.