Long before email and social media allowed advocacy groups to mobilize, I received a brightly-colored UrgentGram from one organization* alerting me to a key legislative vote scheduled within 60 days. The issue was making news headlines. The UrgentGram was written in brilliant staccato — highlighting the importance of the proposed law and bulleting their grassroots advocacy plan to pass the bill. I was ready to make an upgraded gift to help.
But in the closing lines of the UrgentGram, the executive director urged that I join their new monthly giving program. In fact, he wrote that monthly giving was so important he was going to have someone call me about this program. I was confused! What should I do (1) make that critically important one-time gift to help pass the bill, (2) join the sustainer program instead, or (3) wait for that phone to ring? I waited for a call that never came. I never gave.
As a copywriter and a consultant, it can be increasingly frustrating to be asked to throw in a kitchen sink of various offers. Variety may be the spice of life, but not in asking for contributions. Keep it simple. Please!
Building sustainer programs through their direct mail appeals is a great idea, but be careful. Multiple ask strings (a one-time gift string and a lower monthly gift string) on a single reply form are confusing. And be extra cautious during challenge campaigns: “give $100 by October 31st and your gift will be worth double… or give $15 per month.” That’s ineffective. There are better ways! Test what works. Learn from what doesn’t.
*As I was taking a final look at this article, that same organization, twenty years later, called me about current legislation and I pledged $100 – no request to become a sustainer!