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"Margins! Margins!" (AAA fundraising writing)

Published about 2 months agoΒ β€’Β 3 min read

"On the whole, I'm pleased.
But... I was disappointed in the margins."
​
This is the 118th Fundraising Writing Newsletter.
If you find value here, please tell your fundraising friends.
​(Your fundraising friends can ​subscribe here for free.)​

In this issue:

βœ… "Margins! Margins!" (AAA fundraising writing)

βœ… Win It in a Minute Video: Julie shows why 33 "you" words on page 1 of a direct response letter is effective

βœ… Randomly yours: to inspire and recharge you

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Wednesday, January 10, 2023

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Hi Reader,

The other day, Brett and I received a great piece of direct mail that I want to share with you β€” and the big takeaway is its excellent use of margins.

Yes, I know it's January! β€” but whenever I think of margins, I swear I can hear the voice of Ralphie Parker's teacher from A Christmas Story.

In his quest to get a Red Ryder 200-shot range model air rifle, Ralphie decides to write about his dream gift for the theme Miss Shields assigns: "What I Want for Christmas..."

Consummate kid, Ralphie imagines Miss Shields grading the class' themes and being aghast at all other kids' hideous writing yet rapturous at his "sheer poetry."

video preview​

Perhaps Miss Shields' bugaboo can become your mantra...


Margins! Margins!

But first, please look at this fundraising-relevant example from a piece sent to us by AAA, the membership company specializing in roadside assistance.

Brett and I are lapsed members. AAA wants us back. The letter they sent is essentially an acquisition letter.

These images show pages 2 and 3 of the letter.

You can get the gist with a quick glance.

Notice:

  • the handwritten notes in the margins (11 of them!)
  • the handwritten checkmarks
  • the handwritten brackets
  • the handwritten arrows
  • the handwritten circled offer: "TWO for only $24!"
  • the pleasing visual effect (more white space even after accounting for the marginalia)
  • the summarizing effect

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As with any form of emphasis: bolding, underlining, italicizing, larger fonts, colors, ALL CAPS, and so on ... this technique of summarizing key ideas in the margins is powerful.

  • It's accessible.
  • It helps readers focus.
  • It helps readers save time.
  • It helps readers understand.
  • It helps the organization achieve its goals.

(This last is evident because we've received the same letter from AAA multiple times. That tells us it's been tested, risen to the top, and is used on repeat.)

The principles of direct response are applicable to fundraising. The commercial landscape is cutthroat. The techniques that work there have proven themselves. The victors are the survivors.

Follow the survivors. They know the way.

And, next time you're writing a direct mail fundraising appeal letter, remember Miss Shields' mantra:

"Margins! Margins!"


Win It in a Minute:

Here's the latest in our weekly video series, Win It in a Minute.

video preview​

In this 2-minute video, I explain why 'YOU' is a game-changer in direct response fundraising writing. Learn how this simple word transcends nonprofit communication and see it in action through the real-world example of the AAA letter I wrote about above.

You can (and maybe want to?) subscribe here.


Randomly yours: to inspire and recharge you

For your brain, heart, and funny bone...

  • Fundraisingly Informative β€” This Weekly SEND Email is great for show and tell by Ephraim Gopin (a video highlighting the work of Sightsavers to make real for the sighted what it's like to live with various levels of reduced sight due to cataracts; you can sign up for the Weekly SEND here)​
    ​
  • Briefly Rousing β€” 20 Acts in 60 Minutes via This American Life (a fun 60-minute podcast compilation of 20 great micro-stories that TAL collected over the years and that previously seemed too short to share)​
    ​
  • Enduringly Accomplished β€” This kid just became the first person to beat NES Tetris by Lawrence Bonk (an article covering the moment when young Willis Gibson did what was previously thought to be impossible: he beat Tetris; scroll to the end of the embedded video to appreciate the climax of utter joy and disbelief)

Until next time: May you make the most of your margins and delight your donors so they're inclined to give you an A + + +.

Grateful,

PS: Have you signed up for Tom Ahern's newsletter webinar on January 25th? This once-a-year super webby will get you all fired up and prepped to write money-making donor newsletters (digital and print).

Tom updates his slideshow constantly with the latest data and examples. And you can get all your questions answered at the all-you-can-eat "all day" Q&A. Just keep asking, until you can't ask no more. (The Q&A alone is worth the price of admission.)

The fabulously knowledgable, experienced, and successful Denisa Casement will be our special guest panelist fielding questions with Tom. And yours truly (me, Julie) will be your host.

Hope to see you there!

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Hi! We're Julie Cooper and Brett Cooper, fundraising copywriters for great causes. Does your fundraising bring in as much money as it could? You can send donor communications that stir hearts to action. We'd love to help. πŸ’› Start by subscribing to our FREE weekly newsletter.

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