In a sea of competing charity appeals, effective copywriting which answer supporters’ questions and objections is key to raising more funds

The Dialogue Method generates reader conviction by answering ‘unspoken questions’

And the answers to unspoken questions can be provided through:

  1. Main body copy (text)
  2. Headlines and Images

When donors and prospects receive satisfactory answers to their questions and objections, response rates rise significantly.

But the problem is many of these questions and objections are rarely vocalised, so its difficult to provide answers for them.  And because these important answers are frequently omitted from appeals, it’s stopping many prospective donors reaching for their chequebooks and debit cards. 

Thankfully, there is a proven technique for discovering, with some accuracy, what your supporters’ most important questions and objections are.  It’s known as the Dialogue Method. 

The Dialogue Method was pioneered by German academic Siegfried Vogele (left) back in the early 1980s.  Through extensive testing of direct mail packs under laboratory conditions, Vogele was able to show that when answers to ‘unspoken questions’ about products and services appeared in packs, recipients placed more orders.

In fact, the new technique saw response rates grow by a stunning 5-to-10 times.

Anticipating – then answering your prospects (often unspoken) needs and desires – is the key to unlocking higher response

With each satisfactory answer to a supporter’s  ‘unspoken questions’, a small ‘Yes’ registers in her mind.  A ‘tipping point’ is reached when sufficient readers’ questions are answered satisfactorily – lots of small Yeses making one big YES.  This is the point at which your reader decides to donate because she is sufficiently convinced by your appeal.

  • Vogele came up with a comprehensive list of 151 unspoken questions that prospective customers may ask themselves about commercial companies and their products and services
  • The good news is these questions can be adapted and applied equally effectively to charity prospects and donors
  • The more ‘unspoken’ questions you can answer satisfactorily in your direct mail fundraising appeals, the more response and donations you are going to get
  • And because only a handful of UK charities today are adopting the Dialogue Method, a genuine opportunity exists for you to benefit from the technique

Why getting supporters’ attention is so critical today

Liberally peppering the text of your letter with useful answers to supporters’ questions is critical if you’re going to maintain interest and generate conviction in your appeal.  But even the most convincing body copy ever written will be worthless if your letter is consigned to the waste paper bin because it has failed to grab your readers’ attention.  

Even when your fundraising message is a powerful one, there is still a serious obstacle standing between your charity and the donations it needs – overcoming readers’ short attention spans.

Research from Harvard revealed that the average attention span for the first ever televised political debate between JFK and Nixon back in 1960, was only 42 seconds (the maximum time to get a serious political message across). This fell to just 5 seconds in 2008, and now it’s just 4 SECONDS  (PR Smith – Founder of the SOSTAC marketing system)

Today, our readers’ attention spans are extremely short, so fundraising communications must work exceptionally hard to generate donations.

Through the use of his pioneering eye-motion research Vogele made the ground breaking discovery that if a direct mail pack could hold the attention of its reader for just 20-seconds, the odds of a purchase being made rose substantially. And Vogele discovered that using bold Headlines and Images which telegraphed clear benefits to readers, was the best way to gain and hold the attention of readers, and so avoid the fatal 20-second throw-away phase.

Studies show that pictures of people in adverts gain most attention.  Pictures of babies prove most effective.

Here are two very powerful, yet inexpensive, techniques that can help your fundraising appeal letter survive that fatal 20-second ‘throw away’ phase.

KISS – Keep it Simple and Straightforward

Once you have anticipated the answers to your readers’ most important unspoken questions and objections, quickly draw their eyes to them using simple and straightforward visual stimuli like:

  • Headlines
  • Sub-heads
  • Bullets and numbering
  • Formatting: bold, italics, underlined
  • Use of colour
  • Text blocks

R.I.C – Reader Involvement Commitment  

Help hold your readers’ attention for longer by adding extra enclosures to your mail packs which prompt readers to physically handle, unfold and tear off sections.  Physical ‘props’ like these needn’t add greatly to your costs either.  In fact highly effective ‘props’ like those below add mere pennies extra per to a pack:

  • Perforate your reply cards and ask people to tear off and keep helpful contact details
  • A4 folded colour information sheets which reveal important facts and figures when unfolded
Free Consultation

We offer A FREE 30-minute, no obligation phone consultation to help you what your options are.

I was paired with Gordon as part of the Institute of Fundraising Mentoring Scheme. Being able to come to him with new ideas, concerns and questions about an area of charity work that I was relatively new to at the time was incredibly useful, and he was always able to provide great input and feedback that I used to improve my performance in the role and get a promotion.

Josh Hillier
Community Events Manager, National Osteoporosis Society, Bath

Gordon manages to consistently out-perform bench marks for direct marketing response rate, average value and retention.
You don’t often see ROI in the range of 8:1 for marketing campaigns in our industry. That’s impressive.

Nick Thomas
Partner, Tangible UK

We ran a test of our copy against some Gordon had written. It was a treat to come up against such stiff competition
(Drayton Bird’s clients include: American Express, Hargreaves Lansdown plc [financial services], Readers Digest and Save the Children.)

Gerald Woodgate
Partner, Drayton Bird Associates

Copywriting Services

Start with copy used to recruit donors, or which generates most revenue from existing donors, or which you depend on most for retaining donors (the Institute of Direct Marketing say it costs 5 to 20 times more to acquire a new donor than it does to retain one).

This could be your:  Website  /  Emails + Social Media + Blog  /  Charity brochure (with case for support)  /  Fundraising Letters


Copy your top donors will see:  How To Guides  /  Annual Reports  /  Press Releases  /  White Papers

How it works

  1. Fill-in the online reply form, below, providing details of your charity and typical supporter.
  2. We meet on the phone for a no obligation 20-30-minute call to clarify your requirements, discuss terms and schedules.
  3. If you wish to proceed we go to work editing and enhancing your copy.
  4. You’ll be sent draft revisions for your comments, approval and final sign-off.

If copywriting plays a pivotal role in your charity, you may consider it prudent to train-up a member of your team to write your copy in-house .  In the long-run, investing in a coach could prove to be a much cheaper option than hiring-in a pro copywriter.

The best way to learn is on-the-job. The student writes actual copy for real campaigns and projects under our guidance.

We take the student through each stage of the process from initial research, to the drafting of the copy, and final editing.  A capable student can reasonably expect to be producing effective fundraising copy in 6-12 months.

How copywriting coaching works

  1. The aspiring copywriter is required to do some theoretical reading—this ensures a good grounding in the copywriting fundamentals. (study materials supplied)
  2. We discuss each project in turn to establish the appropriate tone, style, design and format for the job.
  3. We track the performance of each piece of copy which is bench-marked against prior results to measure the student’s progress.

Full Copywriting Service

If you don’t have the necessary skills, time or resource to write compelling fundraising copy, then hand it over to us.

We can manage a fundraising campaign or project from start to finish, including:

  • Research, write and design your copy using proven response-boosting techniques like the Dialogue Method
  • Source reliable, competitively-priced printers and designers
  • Take full responsibility for delivering the project on time, and and on budget.

Here’s how it works

  1. We meet (on the phone or in person) to discuss your fundraising aims
  2. You provide relevant background information about your charity, prospects and the services you provide to your beneficiaries
  3. We settle the price and agree deadlines
  4. You receive regular progress reports and drafts to comment on
  5. We edit, edit and edit some more until you are fully satisfied with the content

More Questions?  Fill in the form below to find out MORE about our Copywriting Services

It is our policy never to sell, swap or in anyway trade your details to a third party for marketing purposes. All enquiries (including via this form) are treated in strict confidence.  Should you choose Bloom Fundraising as a fundraising partner, we shall take all practical steps to safeguard sensitive data, including fundraising strategies, tactics, performance data, and where applicable, the handling of your supporters’ data.  Our privacy policy complies with the Fundraising Regulator’s Code of Fundraising Practice and Chartered Institute of Marketing guidelines. bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb