Here’s a scary post from Copyblogger: 7 Ways to Write Damn Bad Copy. I’ve seen all of these. Done quite a few myself:
The problem with most of these things is they call attention to the writer. I have very sad news for you: Nobody cares how clever, funny, passionate, or deep you are. Even your mother doesn’t care. She’s just acting like she does because she loves you.
In fundraising, more than most disciplines, good copy is about the reader and about what they can do. That’s all. Save the look-at-me copy for … well, there really isn’t any good place for it. You can get away with it in poorly edited literary magazines.
From Hands-on Fundraising, 8 things you can do today to improve your fundraising letters:
I can vouch for each of these things. You’ll raise more money if you do them.
Most non-profits I know are skittish about direct mail fundraising, because it requires an initial investment of time and money. Picking up the phone to call a donor takes courage, but it doesn’t cost money. Sending out an e-mail is easy and free.
With direct mail, on the other hand, there are lots of costs involved, so organizations worry about whether they should use it, and if they do use it, they worry about whether or not they’re doing it right. To answer those questions, I have put together this list of 4 things every non-profit – including yours – ought to know about direct mail fundraising:
There are two main types of direct mail: housefile and prospecting. Housefile mail is mail you send to your current donor file – those who have already made a gift to your organization at one time or another. Prospecting mail is sent to a list you purchase or rent… in other words, a cold list of people who haven’t ever (or recently) given to your organization.
Every non-profit (no matter how small) should be using direct mail to reach their housefile list. Even if it’s your first year in existence and you only have 18 donors, mail them a solicitation letter at least once this year. Housefile mail is almost always profitable, and is a great way to stay in touch with your donors.
Successfully using prospecting mail is an art that takes time and experience to learn. Your goal with a prospecting letter is to break even… to make back the cost of the mailing, so that you can add the new donors to your housefile, where they will become profitable. If you send out a poorly worded prospecting letter, or mail the wrong list, you could lose a significant amount of money.
Don’t attempt prospecting mail unless your team is already experienced or you are bringing in a competent direct mail consultant with a proven record of successful prospecting through the mail.
The biggest indicator that someone will give to your non-profit through the mail is if they have done so in the past. That’s why housefile mailings are almost always profitable. Your direct mail donor file is as good as gold for your non-profit. In order to keep it that way, you have to treat it with respect.
This means that, except in rare occasions, you shouldn’t over-solicit your list by sending a letter every other week. It also means that you shouldn’t only send asks to your list… you need to send some cultivation mailings, like newsletters, updates, thank you letters and holiday postcards to your list to keep it fresh and let your donors know that you see them as more than just their wallet.
Treat your donor file with respect, and your donors will continue to support your organization.
Successful direct mail fundraising is built on the foundation of testing and measuring. This is particularly true for prospecting mail. If you want to send out a certain letter to 100,000 prospects, first test the letter on 5,000 prospects randomly selected from that list. If it’s profitable in the test, it will likely be profitable for the whole list. If it’s a dud on the test, write a better letter or find a better list.
You also need to measure and test if you want to optimize your housefile mailings. While you generally won’t need to mail your letter to a test list first for housefile donors, you should keep close tabs on what letters are more or less successful for your list. For example, if your list doesn’t respond as well to a survey-style mailing as it does to a straight fundraising letter this year, the same will likely be true in the year to come.
If you’d like to learn more how to write and design great direct mail letters, read 4 Tips for Designing Fundraising Mail that Works. Be sure that when write your letter, you follow the 5 Steps for Writing Profitable Fundraising Letters.
Photo Credit: Smabs Sputzer
It’s the time of year when you’re packaging up your annual reports for 2012. Before you move forward with the same approach as last year, it’s worth asking:
-Who is the audience?
-What do you need to accomplish with this report?
-Should we question the old approach?
Here’s a great example of what happens when you ask these questions:
The Children’s Bureau report - which takes the form of an interactive report online and a poster in its direct mail form - combines accountability, storytelling and imagery in a wonderful way.
What are you imagining for your annual report? Make sure it serves a purpose for someone in a way that matters.http://bit.ly/14BlVTa
Photo via Green America.
Turns out it’s not just donors who grow weary of too many direct mail appeals and telemarketing calls. It’s apparently a frequent reason fundraisers quit their jobs—the relentless pressure to bombard donors. They’d prefer to take the time to figure out which solicitations work, but they often aren’t given the time or latitude to have a more thoughtful approach.
Over-solicitation, says Burk, is the most common reasons donors give for stopping their support of a charity. Instead donors want to know what’s been done with their money. Then they’d be willing to give again. But too often, they get appeals instead of thanks and reports on impact.
No wonder we have 60% churn in our sector.
So what do we do instead? Here’s Burk’s advice.
1. Thank donors after they give.
2. Send them a follow up thanks with detailed information about how their money was used.
3. Only ask for money AFTER you do these two things, and when you do, be as specific as you can about why you are asking for money. What specific cause will benefit?
Do you agree? Do you feel this way?http://bit.ly/YlKqvv
Tweeting takes more time than it looks like it does and for CEOs, there’s always the fear that the wrong phrase or wording might slip out to a readily waiting and retweeting audience well into the hundreds of thousands. Rather than focus on the “what ifs?” of the Twittersphere, focus on the benefits that these 140 characters can give to CEOs. http://bit.ly/XAYbeH
The guide has great tips like:
1. Always test visuals
2. Pair visuals with words to increase retention of your message
3. Shun bad stock photos
There are great examples, checklists and templates. Get the guide here.http://bit.ly/Y8GjD3
More often than not, a successful digital reach strategy includes pitching article ideas to online publications. For example, if you are a real estate investor looking to increase your credibility and your digital reach (the number of people who know about you and what you have to offer) then you may want to pitch article ideas to websites that provide content related to real estate investors. http://bit.ly/142z0Vu
When I first started The Social Skinny I remember talking with someone in the industry who warned me against ever diversifying the content on my blog. He maintained that once you start writing about things other than your core topic area, you invite doom to your blog, to your life and all those who you’ve ever met. Well, maybe that’s exaggerating his warning slightly, but the advice has stuck with me over the past couple of years, and I’ve stuck to writing about social media – often ignoring the urge to write general rants about people on public transport, the state of politics or why my cat must always wait for when I’m on the most important conference calls to jump on my computer and meow in my face.
But over those two years my career has developed past social media and into the ecommerce space, which means I’ve become somewhat of an expert (self-proclaimed, as usual) on website optimization, conversion, SEO etc. For a long time I’ve wanted to write about these topics, because I think (like social media) they are also relevant to a pretty high percentage of businesses out there – big and small.
I know I have a lot of loyal readers out there and because I (vaguely) care about what you think I was a little apprehensive of how website optimization content might be received on a site that has previously been pretty much solely dedicated to social media. So what to do? Use my very clearly demonstrated social media strategic abilities and apply them to my situation. Ask my Facebook Page fans! And that’s what I did. If you haven’t liked my page, you wouldn’t have known, and as a result you didn’t have a say. So my advice to you would be – and this could be the most important thing you do in your life – like my page. Anyway as you probably gathered by the title of this article, the overwhelming response by my Facebook community was yes please, let’s see what you’ve got for us in this new topic area. So here’s my first ‘diversified’ article on some simple and very actionable tips you can implement straight away to your site to improve your customer experience and increase conversion.
And now, without further self-aggrandizing and rambling crap, here are the aforementioned tips for you, Social Skinny style:
…Oh wait, one more thing. I haven’t focused on SEO or cart optimization in the tips below because I’ll post articles on these two subjects soon.
1. Update your ‘about page’. Such a simple thing to do (and so hypocritical of me to say), but if you want people to buy from you and trust you as a business, you need to make sure your ‘about’ page is up to date, clear, has no spelling/grammatical errors and speaks to your audience. Provide all the information you think your visitors might want to know about your business, but also put in some nice humanistic stuff too – if you’re a family business let them know, profile some of the key personnel, and let your potential customers know what your values are as a company. You want to gain not only their trust, but also their preference, so make them like you (as well as get what you’re all about).
2. Have clear, prominent key benefit claims. Why should they choose your business over your competitors? Free shipping? Free returns? Awesome customer service? Tailored Product? Free quote? Figure out what sets you apart and make it prominent on the site.
3. Assess the hierarchy of your page. What do you want people to do when they arrive on your homepage? Where should they be clicking? What draws the most attention? Design is important, but what is more important (that a lot of graphic designers don’t necessarily understand) is the user experience. Your site might look GREAT, but if it’s not intuitive and easy to navigate – if your visitors don’t know what they should be doing next – you’ve got a problem.
4. Do you have a clear call to action? Are there too many calls to action? When someone lands on your page, what is the main thing you want them to do? Is it to sign up to your newsletter, buy your product or simply view your gallery? Is it to call you for more information or to book/buy? Whatever your key objective is from your website, make sure you have a big fat call to action (CTA) for your visitors to do just that. BUY NOW, CALL FOR A QUOTE, SIGN UP – whatever you want your customers to do the most, make sure that’s what stands out on your page. This CTA must be the most prominent element on your page. Don’t make your visitors work to figure out what to do next. You can have more than one call to action on your page, but make sure you take hierarchy (see point 3 above) into account and make the most important CTA the most prominent.
5. Concise and relevant site navigation – can people find what they are looking for? Do you have a ‘home’ link in your navigation (this is a pet hate of mine if I can’t easily get back to home)? Do you have too many links in your navigation, which is likely overwhelming your customers? Think about whether you could consolidate your navigation links. For example you may have links to ‘staff’, ‘about’, ‘company values’ and ‘history’ – this could all be put under ‘about’. How do your customers navigate your website? Are they looking via product category (in which case you could have the product categories as links in your nav)? Do you have clear customer segments like male/female (eg. Clothing retailer) or Student, Business, Consumer? If so, you might want to have these segment links in your navigation. Think about how people use your site and make sure you have the most relevant links here. And do not have too many.
6. Language – are you speaking to your customer using the terms they would be using? Is it clear and concise? Don’t overdo it, you might have a lot to say but a lot of text is going to turn people off. If you need to have more, links to pages with more information can work. At the same time, you need to make sure you have the information your visitors are looking for. The most important thing here – make sure you’re talking in a language that your customers understand – don’t assume they know industry acronyms or jargon. If newspapers write for an audience of 12 year olds, it might not be a bad place for you to start too.
7. Reassure your customers at every step – security messaging, testimonials, reviews, free returns, guarantees, trials. Don’t give them a reason not to buy from you – give them ten thousand reasons to buy from you.
8. Move the most important links and info above the fold – putting information, links and CTA buttons on your website is not a ‘tick-the-box’ exercise. It doesn’t count if you just make sure you have it on there, somewhere. This feeds into point 3 about hierarchy a little – make sure that the most important information and calls to action are above the fold. What does this mean? It means when you view your site on an ordinary laptop (not a huge monitor) the most important information is visible on the screen without having to scroll down. Anything that requires scrolling to see is going to be seen by a lot less people. People hate scrolling, because people are lazy. So keep the important stuff as high on the page as you can, and don’t waste your prime real estate with pretty pictures and large navigation.
Those are just eight ways that you can help optimize your site to help boost conversion, but there are plenty more. If you’ve got any other tips put them in the comments below, or if you’re too lazy you can just wait for my next article…
So that was it – my first diversified website conversion article – what do you think? Helpful or crap? Let me know what you think, because remember, I vaguely care
PS. yes I’ve started speaking in American English with the whole ‘optimize’… but that’s because looking at my visitation data I get more US visitors than AU… so I’m sorry Australia. You see we have the worldly knowledge to know that optimize is another way to spell optimise, but those Americans… well they assume it’s a spelling error. So please forgive me!http://bit.ly/Zqm75X
Does your company have a blog or learning center with new content added on a regular basis? If not, you are missing a huge opportunity to increase your company’s visibility and therefore your digital reach. http://bit.ly/12teITX
“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.” The same goes for social media networks. They either flourish or flounder. Here’s how the most popular networks compare to Game of Thrones characters. http://bit.ly/10IlBKz
1) Vote for the best in nonprofit video with the DoGooder Nonprofit Video Awards
Today’s your last chance to vote for the best in class here, so grab it. Take 20 minutes to review these finalists and you’ll learn what works and what doesn’t, plus get some great ideas for telling your organization’s stories, via video and other channels.
2) Jump into the free training offered right now with the Tech Soup Digital Storytelling Challenge, and submit your video by April 30.
Ready to change the world with a story? So is TechSoup, which is dedicated to providing your nonprofit, library, or charity with the resources it needs to tell its story.
Participate in these no-charge interactive trainings (listed below) to learn valuable storytelling and production skills, then create your own story to enter the challenge by April 30.
April 9: Tweet Chat: Storytelling with Data
April 11: Webinar: From Creation to Consumption (register)
April 16: Tweet Chat: Storytelling Around the World
April 17: Google+ Hangout: Meet the Judges!
April 18: Webinar: Storytelling of All Sizes (register)
April 23: Tweet Chat: Storytelling and Social Sharing
April 24: Google+ Hangout: Winners’ Circle!
I urge you to jump into both opportunities now. And let me know how it goes here!
Even if you think you’re raising all your money through traditional offline channels, your website is an important part of your fundraising. Donors and would-be donors routinely check you out online. Does your website build trust and give them what they need to say yes?
Here are some ways to do that, from the GuideStar Blog, at Using Your Nonprofit’s Website to Build Trust with Visitors:
I’m a big believer in the positive effects of peer pressure (here’s one article on it).
Global Giving has proved this again - in an intriguing experiment focused on recurring giving. Last year, the organization experimented with a number of different calls to action to get donors to upgrade to recurring donations. They tested the messages on all donors who added a project to their giving cart
Here’s how it worked: When donors added a project to their giving cart on GlobalGiving for $100 or less, they got one of three treatments.
The first was a polite ask to make the gift a recurring donation.
The second was a 1-to-1 match offer: “Upgrade to a recurring donation and we’ll match it.”
Both messages slightly increased recurring gifts, but the second wasn’t that much more effective than the first.
The third message was the winner. It combined a match concept with peer pressure and urgency: “If 75% of donors who see this message upgrade to a recurring donation today, we’ll match all of their donations.”
The sense of collective responsibility and shared reward (and I imagine the deadline) made donors twice as likely to upgrade to a recurring donation than not being asked at all.
Don’t forget: Invite people to join the generous crowd. They will want to join the club.http://bit.ly/13Zndaf