Session Notes: Storytelling with Appeal Letters


Day 3 of The Storytelling Non-Profit Virtual Conference continued with a great session from Mazarine Treyz of Wild Woman Fundraising. Mazarine shared her tremendous knowledge of all things direct mail and showed us how to use stories in our copy.

Below are the slides from Mazarine’s session.

Highlights and Key Takeaways

> TEST. If there was one thing to be learned during this session it is that so much of our direct response efforts can and should be tested. It’s how we improve and raise more money!
> 79% of US donors are still giving through direct mail. It’s not completely irrelevant yet, folks.
> The header of your letter = the elevator pitch
> Pictures are a great way to tangibly show donors what their gift will help accomplish
> Conflict is what makes a good story
> Spend quality time developing your starting text. These are the first few lines that people will read so make ’em count!
> Always ask yourself, “How can I best segment my list?”

A Few Resources

Words that Sell
MyFonts – examples, galore!
Interview with Amnesty International’s writer, Indra Sinha

FAQs From The Session

Should you avoid pictures of buildings if you are campaigning for facilities in your appeal?
Mazarine’s advice is to wisely use pictures of the buildings themselves, but to focus more on how the facilities will be used. What does that new building represent?

If I want to start a monthly giving program, Should I still use all of the practices that you’ve suggested in my direct mail?
Yes, all of these practices are applicable to monthly giving direct mail. Of course every audience will be different so take the time to test it!

What about using quotes from famous/important people? Is it too cheesy or unoriginal, or potentially a good start?
Human psychology is a funny thing and as Mazarine pointed out, using quotes from famous/important people can actually work in our favour! It can subtly suggest the kinds of values our organization is associated with and can seem like an “endorsement” of sorts from that person. Just use them wisely.

How many appeal letters should an organization send each year?
4 and 6 letters a year is ideal.

Should the word “give” or “donate” be on the outer envelope?
While getting someone to make a donation is our end goal, we don’t have to be so overt about it. In the case of email, subject lines that have those words in them tend to have significantly lower open rates.

What are you thoughts about letters coming from the ED/CEO versus the actual “client” themselves?
Mazarine’s recommendation was the ED/CEO and I would definitely agree with that. The demographic that is responding to direct mail is also responding to authority and leadership figures.
But that doesn’t mean you should rule out clients all together. You can still use their stories in the letters.

Do you have question about direct mail or storytelling? Leave a comment below and we’d be happy to answer it!

- Vanessa