How to make a real mess of a mailing

Keen for your direct marketing message to be ignored by prospective donors? Nick Thomas provides a few pointers.

1. Send it to the wrong person

By far the best way to produce a duffer. Sending your appeal to someone who has no idea who the hell you are and has no personal or family connection with your cause reduces your chances of receiving a donation to virtually zero. If you can't quite manage that level of ineptitude, then at least get the name of the person wrong. People hate that and are sure to get really irritated.

2. Compromise the concept

If you come up with three ideas, pick a bit you like from each. Even if there's no clear connection between them, let confusion reign.

3. Mutilate the copy

Let's face it, everyone can write copy, can't they? Make sure your copy approval process includes as many aspiring writers as possible, so they can all have a go. If you've done the job well - normally after the 10th rewrite - you should be left with a mish-mash of styles and ideas that will leave the recipient confused or bored. Both are perfect for ineffective fundraising.

4. Impose super-strict corporate guidelines

Brief a Covent Garden design agency with no fundraising experience to produce the guidelines. Make sure they pack it full of unhelpful rules, such as always insisting on civil service levels of political correctness and a strict code of 'look and feel'.

5. Always send the pack when it suits you

Create a mailing plan around a comfortable and convenient workload, perhaps four mailings a year. Never take the chance to be pro-active or reactive to useful topical events, such as humanitarian disasters or the Chancellor's annual Budget. Ensure that your pack is out of step with the times so it won't attract interest. We don't want that, now, do we?

6. Buy a dog and bark yourself

Don't include examples of your organisation's work, such as compelling case studies or tangible shopping lists of what a donation could buy - that sort of thing. You could even leave out the donation form and make donors pay the price of a stamp for the privilege of sending donations. And, for God's sake, don't go thanking donors for their support.

- Nick Thomas, executive creative director at direct marketing agency Tangible Response.

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