The lame-duck fundraising season is upon us, which means copywriters will have to calibrate their asks amid the end-of-the-year politicking and the holiday season.
Threading the plea-for-cash needle between the issue du jour, the Thanksgiving turkey and the New Year’s ball drop takes some finesse. Donors are certainly fired up — they proved that in the midterms.
But between the distractions of family gathering calendar reminders and holiday party meeting notifications, the average office worker receives more than 100 emails a day — when most say they can handle half of that.
It’s tough to stand out.
Luckily, a few veteran copywriters were kind enough to share their insights with me on what to say, and how to say it. Here’s are a few ways candidates and groups can cut through the clutter and get people to stop, read and, most importantly, donate before the end of the year.
“The holiday season is the hardest time of year for online political fundraising. This is when donor fatigue sets in and holiday spending ramps up,” Mary Caswell “Cassie” Alsfeld, president of Shoreline Strategies, told me.
Alsfeld, who worked as the lead copywriter for Mitt Romney’s presidential run in 2012, believes that even though the time of year may not be ideal, creativity can help separate yourself from the pack.
“Ultimately, it’s crucial to create clever campaigns. Think out-of-the-box with merchandise promotions, limited edition products, or a specific deadline.”
Alsfeld also recommends a combination of emotional pleas and clear goals. An effective fundraising email should consist of copy that is:
The copywriter’s secrets
Copywriters aren’t only writers, their self-editors who are well aware that:
• Nobody wants to read (they’d rather look at pictures)
• Attention spans are short
• People are bombarded by messages
And every copywriter can tell you that a good subject line is half the battle.
“Most subject lines are factual and information-based. Consider a more personal-sound subject line that can help your message stand out, said Adam Barr, head of Barr Creative.
It’s akin to seeing your name on the envelope of a holiday card. In fact, author Dale Carnegie famously recognized this decades ago. “Remember that a person’s name is to that person, the sweetest sound in any language,” he said.
So before the recipient can even get into the guts of your email, he or she has to be enticed by, again, the subject line. Consider emojis.
Emojis are becoming part of many of our digital conversations. It’s a visual, fun way to get your email to stand out from the pack — just make sure they alight with your messaging, and the season.
So what are the messages donors want to hear this time of year? Barr recommends calibrating the message to a donor’s level of engagement — think generic holiday greeting for an email list subscriber or a plea for a savior directed at a reliable donor.
And remember: Most people don’t give money to candidates or non-profits simply because they’re never asked.
Josh Womack is an independent speechwriter and the co-founder of Laugh Staff.