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7 quick and easy direct response copywriting tips to boost your fundraising campaigns

Published by Theo De Roza on

Other than a good story, have you ever wondered what makes one fundraising campaign more successful than another?

The “magic bullet” of olden times, which you can quickly apply today – even if you think you have a bad command of English – is direct response copywriting.

What’s direct response copywriting, you ask? Put simply, it is writing to sell and asking for an action. Here are 7 tips you can use immediately to boost your fundraising appeals.

1. The audience

It all starts with your target audience first. This is a very simple thing which almost no one does, but can put you in the right frame of mind when writing to someone, even if you think you are writing to many.

Have a picture of your target audience in front of you as you write. Look through magazines. Find a picture of someone who you think is your target audience and whom you want to write to, cut it out, and paste it on your screen so you’re looking at it as you write.

The ghostwriter of a series of bestselling books uses this little tip to, well, achieve bestsellers. Try it, and you may discover it works superbly well for you, too!

2. The headline

Your headline is like the cover letter to a resume which entices the person to continue reading. Spend a reasonable amount of time on your headline.

A good headline should have some or all of these:

  • Arouses curiosity
  • An apparent benefit to the reader
  • Have a “you” (or a few) in it
  • Includes a number if you have a list of things the reader should know

Some classic examples:

  • They laughed when I sat at the piano… But when I began to play! (Benefit and curiosity)
  • How to give your children extra iron – These 3 delicious ways
  • Do you make these mistakes in English?

Some copywriters will say that you have to spend more time on your headline before even starting on the rest of your letter. Others say you can start writing your letter first, and the headline might actually surface within the copy. You can try either method and see which works better for you.

3. The AIDCA guide

You might be familiar with the AIDA, which stands for:

  • Attention
    • This is where you capture and gain the attention of your reader
    • You can open with a statement which is either interesting or intriguing
  • Interest
    • Where you show why this should interest your reader
    • Create interest and provide a hook in your subject to keep him reading
    • For example, “This lady (with a hoarding problem) has 7 cats in the house, but we only found 5. Can you guess where the other 2 are?” (credits to Mr Yong Teck Meng, National Director, Habitat for Humanity Singapore, for this hook)
  • Desire
    • Where you build up desire within your reader to help
  • Action
    • Where you ask for the action of making a donation, or some other goal

In AIDCA, the C stands for Conviction, which is a testimonial you can use. The testimonial can be either from a beneficiary, or donor, or even your colleague.

If you’re ever stuck with writing an appeal, you can safely follow AIDCA.

A Bonus Tip: Only ask your reader to do one thing at a time. You will dilute your message and even risk confusing your reader by making them choose one of many things to take action on. 

4.  You should ask for an action this many times

How many times? At least three times, that’s what!

  1. At the start of your letter, preferably within the first 2 sentences or paragraphs.
  2. In the middle of the letter
  3. At the end of the letter, or in the P.S.

Here’s why: While you feel you may read through the entire letter because you wrote it, chances are, your reader won’t. They will likely skim through it. Which is why you should ask at least three times. In email marketing campaigns I’ve run, the highest percentage of clicks are in my first link right at the beginning, and the P.S.

5. Use the power of “So what?”

To quickly cut out fluff or me-copy (copy that just goes “me, me, me!!!”), simply add “So what?” at the end of every sentence. And say it in your head as though you were the most time-pressed and ruthless reader reading your letter, and about to throw it in the trash. I’ve found this works very well for me, and cuts out lots of filler material.

6. How about you?

Remember, when you write, the letter needs to be about the reader. You should use “you” as often as you can. Cut the “I” and “we” to a minimum. Letters full of “I” and “we” will leave your reader cold, as it does not involve them… and they will, as they read, wonder what you even need them for, if you’re too busy talking about yourself.

7.  Be an easy or fast writer but a ruthless editor

Copywriters who write successful campaigns are just like you and me… with an added step: They will edit their letters at least seven times. Drayton Bird, a professional direct response copywriter and ad-man who worked with David Ogilvy himself before, edits his letters at least seven times before it goes to print.

You’ll probably find you can phrase a sentence better, or cut out fluff and add more meat with each pass.

Well, there you have it, 7 quick and easy tips you can immediately apply to your fundraising appeals to boost your response rates and donations! Any questions, or want to know more about direct response copywriting? Do leave a comment below.


Theo De Roza

Theo De Roza

A sales and marketing guy and lifelong student of direct marketing, Theo is also a direct response copywriter. He applies his training and breathless interest in direct marketing and copywriting as a fundraiser in the Singapore Red Cross, where he currently works. Theo has a passion for doing good, and loves to use and share his skills and knowledge to help charities raise more funds in both digital and traditional media.

1 Comment

Jason · July 4, 2019 at 12:02 am

Thank you for sharing this. Most of us at nonprofits wear so many hats – and copywriting is one of them. This is a great primer to make sure I’ve got a solid foundation on all of my emails. I’ll definitely be referring back to it.

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