What’s In My Mailbox | A 65% increase in funding with this “before” and “after” fundraising appeal

January 17, 2018


Nobel Prize winning author, Ernest Hemingway, famously said, “The first draft of everything is usually shit.” But stay with it, for oftentimes all it takes are a few simple tweaks to transform your writing into a masterpiece that gets results.

Case in point: when Christine White, Annual Fund Officer for East Side Baby Corner, a student in our Direct Mail Masterclass, wrote in last November, she was struggling with her year-end fundraising appeal.

“I recently participated in your Direct Mail Master Class.  I’m still not feeling so masterful, but your succinct lessons kept me focused on the donor with the end in mind.

I tried to write a letter to the donor “persona” I developed.  But between all the lessons, an endless barrage of webinar titles on the 10 things NOT to do or say, the 7 things you absolutely must do to get that gift, etc., and just being in my own head and reading and writing the same message about my organization, I am a little overwhelmed.

I have attached a draft of our Winter campaign letter.  If you have any time at all for feedback, it is most welcome.”

Christine already had the makings of a winner. Her letter was focused on her donor and the impact of their gift. I responded:

“I’m finding the callouts a bit distracting. For your year-end appeal, I want to see a focus on ONE story. Have you run the letter through the Hemingwayapp? Even the gurus use it and it always tightens up my writing. Aim for a grade level of around 5 (I was coming up with 7 when I ran a few paragraphs of your letter thru and that is good too). Also think in terms of giving the credit to your donor. Remember: your donor doesn’t need to know HOW you do what you do, they need to know the IMPACT/what they’re accomplishing thru you. Make sense?”

I attached a recent rewrite I’d done for a client to give Christine an idea of what I was talking about.

Christine went back to work editing her letter. And her results speak for themselves!

“I can’t thank you enough for the time you spent to respond and give feedback on my winter campaign letter draft.  Your advice was so clear and helpful.  I used the Hemingway App to help simplify the message, make the letter easier to read and directed to the reader.  I followed your suggestions to focus on one story and give credit to the donor.

I’ve attached the final letter that went to renewing donors.

The result?  Well, we are still receiving gifts from the campaign on a daily basis.  But so far, we’ve received an increase of over 68% from last year’s winter campaign and more than 100% increase over our 2015 campaign!”

Take a look at Christine’s Before and After.

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