I learned a long time ago, as a development professional, that having a great case for support is nearly meaningless unless you also develop compelling messaging.
Later, when attending the Association of Fundraising Professionals Faculty Training Academy, the workshop leader made this same point in the context of making presentations. The AFP/FTA takes good speakers and turns them into the best.
Unfortunately, a great many nonprofit organizations continue to send the same dull, institutional-focused direct mail that prospects easily bypass in the paper shuffle. Charities continue to make uninspiring calls, publish informative articles few read, run ads that donors will only glance at and soon forget.
Given the pressures we face in our daily lives and the enormous demands on our time, I understand first-hand how simple it can be to take the easy way. Knowing the content of our message is important, we’re sometimes lulled into the belief that that is enough to make the message compelling.
Well, it’s usually not. It’s not just what you say, but how you say it that counts.
Let’s step away from the nonprofit sector for an example that will make what I’m suggesting crystal clear.
My wife and I are foodies. We live in Philadelphia, a fantastic restaurant city. We’re choosey about where we eat. And we’re even pickier about which restaurant email lists we subscribe to. However, like I said, we’re foodies. So, we’ve ended up on a lot of restaurant email lists, though just the good ones.
Recently, my wife received an email from Tria, a wine, cheese, and beer café that we enjoy. It read, in part:
With due respect to our current cheese menu, variety is the spice of life. We’re introducing a brand new list of summer fromage that we’re excited to brag about share with you.
Announcing! The Tria Spring Cheese Menu
Out with the old list, in with the new. Starting today, we’ll be replacing every single cheese on our menu with a new alternate for the summer. No, we aren’t throwing out tons of delicious cheese (the horror!) from our current list – as one is finished, a new one will take over the former’s place on the menu. Pop by and scout out the arrival of a new ultra-creamy Crottin-style cheese from Georgia, a funky thistle-rennet cheese from Spain that redefines luscious, the best cheddar in the world, and much much more. We promise drool-worthy images on our Twitter and Instagram feeds as the curds switch up.
When: Today through the rest of the summer
Where: Tria Rittenhouse and Tria Wash West”
You can see the full message here.
Tria used humor to capture our attention, and great descriptions that engaged our senses to hold on to our attention. The message also gave us important information about the new offering including when and where we can find it.
The café could have imparted the same core information far more simply. Tria could have said:
Tria has begun offering its summer cheese menu. Visit our Rittenhouse or Wash West location to try the new cheese selection.”
Both messages impart the same basic information and address the what, when, where questions. However, there is no doubt that the original message is far more engaging and, therefore, far more effective.