What’s In My Mailbox | Who knew scratch ‘n sniff could be so compelling?

December 12, 2018

The Monell Chemical Senses Center is a nonprofit scientific research institute located in Philadelphia, PA, celebrating their 50th year. Monell conducts and publishes research primarily focused on taste and smell, as well as how these things are connected to human health and disease. Monell is the only research institute of its kind, and the work they do is fascinating. But how does this unusual place that carries out such an unusual mission make a compelling case for donor support?

By sending out an unusually compelling year-end appeal that is true to who they are and the important work that they do. I received their year-end appeal, and there was a lot to like about it from the get-go. Right off the bat, the envelope serves as an important piece of the communication — it bears a scratch ‘n sniff stamp that is both fun and functional. It caught my attention right away, and it ties into the letter, too.

Check out the letter below. I’ve made comments throughout.

  1. I suggest indenting the paragraphs.  Indenting creates more white space and openness, which is easier on the eyes. And 14-point font is the new 12-point font. You don’t want a business letter for your readers — you want warm and welcoming.
  2. This letter features a great opening that puts the donor right in the picture by speaking directly to them: “Do you remember the first time you tasted a popsicle, ice cream, or another frozen treat?” This is also where the sticker comes into play. I like that it engages the reader without asking for money: “Try the stamp if you haven’t already.”
  3. The ask happens early, and there are more throughout the letter.
  4. The section that talks about what my gift will do is great. I’ve been aware of Monell for years, but this is the first time they’ve actually made a case for what my gift will accomplish. Nonprofits should clearly communicate impact. It puts donors at ease and encourages readers to make their first gift. Knowing where your money goes is comforting. And inspiring!
  5. This paragraph reads as awkward and corporate-y. Always remember that you’re writing to a friend. A solid fundraising appeal letter should read like a conversation. This letter could have benefitted from running it through the Hemingwayapp. Also try reading it out loud, or enter it in text to speech and listen for stilted phrasing.
  6. Great close. It’s inspiring and points to the future, one made possible through donor support. And I really like that.

The letter comes straight from Doctor Robert Margolskee, Monell’s President and Director. For the way it has inspired me and dared to be different, I won’t forget it anytime soon. Especially as a fan of ice cream!


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