Fundraising Tip: Direct Mail Appeal Writing

Writing a “readable” direct mail letter

Because letter-style direct-response packages designed for development or fundraising purposes must meet response standards –– which is a fancy way of saying This Letter Must Raise Money — these standards sometimes override traditional punctuation and grammatical principles. You must catch the reader’s attention … and carry her eye forward from phrase to phrase, from thought to thought. You’ve got to do what you can to avoid the “scan”! You must make use of a complex science of alternative punctuation, unorthodox capitalization, and sentence fragmentation –– all of which increases response to a package, but sometimes drives secretaries and editors batty!

For example, we make significant use of ellipses (…) and dashes (––) and frequently use capital letters after these items, even though a capital is not technically called for. This has the surprisingly strong effect of holding the reader’s eye –– and generally does not reflect too negatively on your reputation for editorial precision, since most readers don’t process their mail through a mental filter of “the rules.”

* Like what you just read and want to learn more? I’ve used this book with all of my clients.  It is written by a friend, Doug Brendel – a fellow associate at BBS & Associates. Check out, The Seven Deadly Diseases of Ministry Marketing: Confessions of a Christian Fundraiser.


About Gary Coiro

Nonprofit & Church Leader Nonprofit Leader and Consultant since 2004, following 15 years as a pastor. Competencies include board development, fundraising, staff development and management, strategic planning, church work, Bible teaching, and capital campaigns. Currently consulting and serving on the Church Ministries Management Team for a large multi-cultural evangelical church.
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