Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Right 1000 Words

OK, we’ve all heard it. A picture is worth a 1000 words. But are they the right 1000 words? Choosing the right photos to appear on your web site, e-newsletters, and in print collateral is critically important. People form an irrevocable first impression based on visual elements. Even when working with a design firm, it’s likely you will have to supply photos. So, how can you pick that photo that’s going to be the difference between an online donation or just another website visit? Here are some tips:
  • Content - We’ll talk about photographic and technical considerations later but first, you have to ensure that the content of the photo fits your strategy. Do the people or situation in the photo reflect the way in which you want prospective donors to perceive your organization? This can involve elements like ethnicity, dress, grooming, activity and facial expression. Look at potential photos in great detail and critically. Solicit opinions. Ask people what the photo makes them think or feel. Better yet, would it influence their decision to give? If you’re not getting the right answers, keep looking.
  • Composition - Close ups of faces will have the greatest visual impact. Faces convey character and communicate. Consider the amount of space you’re setting aside for the photo. How many people can be accommodated in the space so that you can still clearly see their faces? For sure, less is better. Large group shots are visually meaningless. You may want to think that it will demonstrate the breadth or diversity of the organization. But the person viewing it isn’t likely to get it and will probably be bored. Photos of lectures and seminars in progress have the same problem. You’re better off with a photo of one smiling lecture participant because it will capture the reader’s attention and make it more likely that the ask or the article will get read.
  • Photo Quality - There’s a host of technical/photographic issues to consider. Is the space being allowed for the photo vertical or horizontal and can it work in that space? Is the photo in focus? Does the photo have enough resolution? This is more of an issue for print applications but you should always take digital photos at the camera’s highest resolution setting to avoid situations where you have a great photo that just can’t be printed. Is the photo too dark or too light? Don’t assume your designer can fix this. There’s a limit to the miracles that can be worked in Photoshop.

It may sound like a lot of work but there’s no question that the right photos - and the right 1000 word - can lead to fundraising success.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Direct Mail Lives On

Direct mail is far from dead. I have spent an amazing amount of time in the past few weeks working with clients on direct mail campaigns and issues like:
  • Is it worthwhile to use brokered lists?
  • Who is the best person in the organization to sign the letter?
  • One page or more?
  • Will the incremental costs of segmenting bring results?
These are real life issues that organizations are grappling with. The answers aren’t always simple, but here are a couple of things that I strongly recommend:
  • Invest in the tools and resources that will maximize the value of your database. The more you know about your donors and prospective donors, the more effective your direct mail campaign will be. Can you segment your list geographically, by donation amount, by dates of donations or asks? Whether it means acquiring/updating software or providing the manpower to ensure that data is entered and kept current - do it.
  • Segment and target - however you are able. This doesn’t have to be difficult. Different letters can be variations on a theme. There are probably 2-4 paragraphs that can be the same in each letter. But a letter that for example acknowledges and speaks to a recipient as an alumnus of an institution or as a member of a profession or as a previous donor will undoubtedly be more successful.
  • Test. If you are trying to decide what will be more effective (like who signs the letter), do some one way and some the other. Just make sure you have a way of tracking results - like a code on a pledge card. It’s not perfect because there are other factors that may be at play, but if the results sway dramatically in one direction, you’ve probably proved something.
Most studies say that direct mail is still a tremendously effective fundraising tool. You can maximize its value through forethought, planning and preparation.