Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Here's 4 mistakes you don't want to make:
1. Basing your marketing message on your mission.
If the first message people see on your web site is you mission, as written for your board, you might want to revisit that. Your donors want to help you execute your mission. Tell them exciting stories and needs that will actually impact change. If it's saving the Banff Springs Snail in Alberta or building a shelter for women in St. John's -- your supporters are keenly interested in doing.
2. No instructions on how to get involved.
Some call it the "call to action" others call it the "offer." What is means is that after they have read a compelling reason for your work they will also clearly understand what you want them to do. CLEARLY. Whether it's write a petition, go on a trip, volunteer, give money, tell your neighbour, call -- in clear and succinct words tell them exactly what to do. (some fund raisers have discovered a lift in response by adding: "Tear here" to the perforated return device.)
3. Multiple messages. It is not more cost effective to tell your donors everything in one encounter. That's like a date where you talk without a breath about you. Identify your key messages and stick to them. It's a business model. Promote your core business. It will bring growth. Building your campaign so that there will be "something for everyone" will build confusion.
4. Budget. Growing your support base and cultivating long term relationships is not happenstance. It requires a budget, good planning and the consistent execution of a plan. In some situations, we are able to increase the overall revenue of an organization by simply establishing a strong case for support and a regular fund raising calendar. Rocket Science? No... but few of us are going to the moon.
(Thanks to Stacy Jones for her excellent article in The Philanthropy Journal.)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Thesis Statements Rule

In my undergraduate years, I was keenly interested in the approval of my profs. While writing came pretty naturally to me, I was a story teller, not an essay writer. The idea of giving away my whole idea up front was startlingly adverse for a novel writer.
I got over it.
Then I received my first 300 Composition 101 essays! I was transformed. 299 of the essays were nearly indecipherable. The writers had given me no clues as to where they were going. The essays were either idea-less or had so many ideas jammed into them that I couldn't make sense of them. Very few had identified their "thesis."
And then I understood the importance of the thesis statement.
Ad writing, marketing and fund raising is no different. The offer is the thesis statement. The copy writer should never start writing a letter without a clear and succinct offer. Starting with the response form or devise is a great idea. The designer should not begin to design or lay out the piece without clearly understanding what the offer is.
All of the information, writing, content, design -- everything -- hinges on the offer.
We slide past this too often. We assume we know where we're going. Then, half way there, we take out the map and refocus on our goal. Getting lost in mid-stream is a waste of valuable time.
The second thing I learned in Composition 101 is that words should be chosen for the audience. Even as I write it, it seems like such a simplistic point. But all of my clients get hung up on this. Using words that have an affinity to the corporate structure or internal language builds barriers for the donor/customer.
We were chatting around the pool one fine summer morning. Our guest was a young man from Japan who spoke impeccable English. He had learned this impeccable English at school. He could only grasp about half of what I said. I was stunned to realize how much I spoke in metaphors and allusions that were Canadian specific (or at least North American). My colloquial speech had not been covered in his English classes.
Our clients, donors and customers don't live in our corporate structures or contexts. We need to speak to them in language they understand.