Repetition brings Recognition, brings REWARD


In an earlier blog, I drew attention to the importance of long copy fundraising messages.  The bald, inescapable fact is that donors respond more often to long messages.

More words mean more connection and this increases the chances a person will give.

Some donors will be moved when you help them visualize a life-threatening need. Others will give if you emphasize great impact from your work.  The longer the message, the more triggers you can include.

But it’s not just the additional ‘triggers’ or the reading enjoyment donors derive from longer messages which help nudge up the donation count.

How often you repeat your key messages is equally as important.

Here’s why:

Hopscotch Theory

Few people read everything you’ve written, starting with the first word and ending with the last.

Just watch someone while they read their mail. Their eyeballs are everywhere, darting from bottom to top, flipping the page in less time than it takes to read a full sentence.

They bounce around, skipping entire sections, reading other parts more than once.

In fact, it just like watching a child play at hopscotch.

I once watched my mother read an appeal I’d written (she didn’t know it was mine).  She started at the end and worked her way backward. The ‘PS’ she read was my carefully crafted lead.

A longer letter has more entry points.  More calls to action.  More chances for a reader who isn’t following your logic to get pulled in.

Back in the eighties, German direct marketer Siegfried Vogele, discovered through pioneering eye-movement research what sort of things grabbed the attention of the cursory letter reader.

Vogele teaches us about ‘amplifiers’ and filters’.

And they’re incredibly important.

Amplifiers are reasons why readers should buy from you – e.g. envelope text which hints at solving a problem.

Filters work in the opposite way, they are reasons why the reader shouldn’t buy from you – e.g. not mentioning a money-back guarantee.

The more “amplifiers” we pack into our fundraising mailings and emails, the more reasons we give our supporters to donate.

Gravitas Theory

The very fact that a message is long may signal to donors in some subliminal way that it’s important.

They may not need to read every word, because the length tells them all they need to know.

I’ve found that the best long messages have two characteristics: repetition and story.

Repetition is the important part.  Repeat yourself because you don’t know if readers understood what you said the first time.

Repeat yourself because you can’t be sure they even caught it the first and second times.

Repeat yourself because sometimes it doesn’t sink in until you’ve said it a few times.

Repeat yourself because you never know what way of making the case is the one that will get through.

The outline for an effective long fundraising message might be something like this:

  • Introduction: Why I’m writing to you
  • How much impact your gift will have
  • Story that demonstrates why this is
  • Remind the donor why his values and connection with the cause matter
  • Another story showing why
  • Help the donor visualize why donations are critical and what happens if they give
  • And why bad things may happen if no one gives
  • Why your gift is so important today.
  • Conclusion: Thank the donor for caring.  Ask for a donation.
  • Ask again in the PS, and say why your donor is special to your organisation.

Remember, “amplifiers” – reasons why donors should buy – are the fundraiser’s friend.

If you’re serious about raising funds, you really have to explain why again and again.

The more reasons you can list, the more likely your donor is going to ‘buy’ your campaign or cause, and send you that cheque.

Subjectivity is for donors – not fundraisers 

One last important point: You can’t judge this question by what you’d want to read in a fundraising appeal yourself.
Sadly, you can’t even base it on what donors tell you they want.  (What you’re told in a focus group or questionnaire often won’t pan out in reality)

You have to watch actual donor behaviour as it plays out in the form of response to your messages. Objective analysis is the only currency the fundraiser’s boss accepts. And rightly so.

Repetition brings Recognition, brings Reward.

So until you learn otherwise, keep sending those long, repetitive messages.

Your best donors and your boss will love you for them!

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