When a message doesn't connect II

I don't want to get down on my own party, but I just got a fundraising letter today from the State GOP that just didn't do it for me. I'm sure it wasn't cheap, 2 color printing and all. But the message just kind of laid there for me like a stranded carp flopping at the edge of the water.

The message just seemed... well, weak. That's not to say it was all bad. Far from it. It mentioned some nice accomplishments of the Governor. And then it flopped on the sand from there. I can't say it made cheapskate me want to send them $20.

Fundraising letters can be tricky. I remember my first one. It was bad. So bad it got me an ass chewing from State Party GOP Director Bill Protexter (Now Nebraska Senator Sen. Chuck Hagel's State Director). Bill was and remains a pretty nice guy, so it must have really sucked. It was instant on the job training.

Just to retain my employment, I had to figure out - and fast - what made up a good letter. What did I do? I found a good one, and I mimicked the style and tone. And the candidate I wrote it for was quite pleased with it, so there was some redemption.

I'm sure there are schools for this stuff, but in South Dakota, there's really not much training for political candidates on how to write a compelling fundraising letter. I like to think by now I've gotten fairly good at it, but there's always room for improvement.

It used to be conventional wisdom that a good fundraising letter should not be more than one or two pages at most. But then there's also the story about the most successful political fundraising letter in SD history being one from George McGovern that was 20+ pages.

What are the elements of a good fundraising letter? Campaigns and Elections Magazine did a pretty good analysis in 2003 of what it takes and laid out some good points to consider:
Motivation - what makes a potential donor want to contribute?

Maintain a consistent tone

Be specific and sincere and occasionally bold.

ASK FOR THE CHECK

Just as important as an attention-grabbing opening line is a compelling P.S. Use the postscript to summarize the main selling point of the letter and once again, ask the reader to write a check now.
Check out the link for this - I don't want to grab the whole article - but it should belong in your campaign how - to guide.

The PS in the letter I got said "Your strong commitment and financial leadership are urgently needed to meet the awesome challenges ahead. Please respond right away." In my mind I'm thinking that sounded like it came off of a fortune cookie. It wasn't even worthy of Master Yoda.

Aside from the stuff cribbed from another website up top, what elements do the War College recommend for a fundraising letter?

#1 - Personalization. Mail merge the first name. Dear Friend is barely acceptable if nothing else will work.

#2 - Show a need. If you cannot show a need, they will not come. Nor will they send you their hard earned cash.

#3 - Make the request for money. If you don't ask, they won't know. You have to some out and hit them over the head and ask for it.

#4 - Tell them what you're going to spend it on. Everyone understands that a campaign or party has to keep the lights on. But give them figures. $500 will buy a TV commercial, or $1000 will pay for our direct mail for Sioux Falls. If they don't know why they are giving it for, they are less likely to open their hearts and checkbooks.

#5 - People are not offended by being asked for more than they can afford. The letter I got today asked for $20 or $30 or $40. $40? Kiss my behind! I've given up to $250 before. People are more likely to be offended by being asked for less (as I was) than they are for being asked to consider giving more.

#6 - Close with a good PS reiterating your request for money with amounts. As noted earlier, the letter I got today closed with "Your strong commitment and financial leadership are urgently needed to meet the awesome challenges ahead. Please respond right away." -which is easily one of the weakest political fundraising letter closings I've ever seen.

It's as much an art as it is science. As much as I'm complaining, what would I have written? Ok, here we go:
Dear ________ (Personalization),

A year ago, could you imagine we would be where we are today?

Right now, Republicans hold all state offices but the Commissioner of School and Public Lands. Through hard work, we beat the Senate Minority leader for the first time in 50 years. We have one of the most popular Governors in state history, and we hold strong majorities in both legislative chambers. The South Dakota Republican party is in better shape at this point in time than it has been in decades.

But there's people who want to take it away. (Showing the need) There are people out there that want to tear down the house that the grassroots of the GOP built, and take us off the path of future prosperity. Even though South Dakota is in great shape, there's people out there who say we "need a change."

Failed Democratic Presidential contender and Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean thinks we needs a change. He's pumping tens of thousands of dollars into the South Dakota Democratic Party to hire their "A-Team" to take us on this next fall. He wants to turn us off the path of prosperity and back on to the rough road of taxing and spending. (Showing the need)

Failed Gubernatorial contender Ron Volesky thinks we need a change. He's making yet another run for the office. Who knows what form his changes might take? Can you imagine Planned Parenthood Director Kate Looby in charge of the South Dakota Department of Social Services? Or State Senator Jim "Intangible Income Tax" Hundstad in charge of the Department of Revenue? We could see Senator Frank Kloucek in charge of the State Department of Agriculture, fining farms because of odor levels! (Showing the need)

Is that what we want to happen to South Dakota in the next four years? Because that's will happen if we don't have your help. (Showing the need)

The GOP Team is ready to meet the challenge of our opponents. We will meet our opponents any time and any place. But what it's going to take is your financial support.

Howard Dean sent the State Democratic Party $85,000 to beat us. At a minimum, we need to meet that $85,000 goal - and I want to beat it. (Make the request)

Today, I need your check for $250, $100, $50 or whatever you can afford to send. (Ask for as much as you can)

With your help, we're going to raise that $85,000 and use it to fund new candidates for the legislature. It's going to go into campaign recruitment, television and radio commercials, newspaper ads, and whatever it takes to get our message of prosperity across. If we succeed, it will only be because of you and the other members of the party working at the grassroots level. (Tell them what it's to be used for)

So, please. Please make your donation today. the South Dakota Republican Party is depending on you to build our future.

Sincerely,

Party chairman or other signatory


P.S.. Please make your donation today of $250, 100, $50 or whatever you can afford to the South Dakota Republican Party. I've enclosed a postage free envelope for your use. ________, we're depending on your support. Thank you. (Close with a PS reiterating the amount)

See what I'm talking about? Now my letter may have been a little over the top - but I would send this one out today - and I would consider it a good fundraising letter for my purpose of raising money for the party.

Consider your audience - they're typically true believers. They don't need the soft sell. Give them some meat. Give them some rhetoric.

And if you do so, they are more likely to give you some money than they are to ignore a wishy-washy fundraising letter that does little more than say we want a check.

Comments

sdbwm said…
Dear P.P.,

A year ago, could you imagine I would be where I am today?

S.D. Blog Watch was only a dream, a beautiful dream. It was a dream that someone out there would separate the wheat from the chaff, the doo from the hickey, the bull from the... You get the idea.

Today, the SDBW is dead. And so I am unemployed, no longer able to count on the .27 cents a day that I was making with Google Ad Sense.

SDBWM won't be back. Right now, South Dakota's blogosphere is at a critical point, with hillbillies running amok, moonbats shooting from the hip, and T.E. splitting his time between Kansas and S.D.

But there's people who like it that way. There are people out there who want to tear down the house that the S.D. Blogosphere built and take us off the path of future prosperity. (Well, take me off that path, anyway.)

Technology will continue to change the blogosphere. And with one new blog starting every. 1.238596 seconds, the blogosphere will continue to be a fluid thing.

Can you imagine one of the Hillbilly's offsprings filling the role of SDBWM. Can you imagine the horror of video-blogging in the hands of El Duderino? Can you imagine what would happen if the cut and paste bloggers on the right and left were left to audio blog without some sort of oversight? I have, and it keeps me awake at night. (Note the time this was filed.)

Is that what we want to happen to South Dakota in the next four years? Because that's will happen if we don't have your help.

The SDBWM is ready to meet the challenge of our opponents. We will meet our opponents any time and any place. But what it's going to take is your financial support.

A blog ad on one of South Dakota's most popular sites can cost as much as $150 a week. If all five spots were purchased, that would total $750 a week. And if all the blogs in South Dakota were selling that many ads, it would total $8.2 million a year. Or thereabouts.

So at a minimum, I need to raise $8.2 million, and I need it now.
Today, I need your check for $250, $100, $50 or whatever you can afford to send.

Why do I need it. Greed. It's what got me into blogging in the first place.

With your help, we're going to raise that $8.2 million and use it to line our pockets in a show of greed this state has never seen. It's going to go into fancy cars and loose women and expensive hotel rooms. It's going to be used to buy booze. I'm talking about the real good stuff, like they sell at Minerva's and not the Crow Bar. It's going to go into Video Slot Machines and blackjack tables at reservations across the state. If we tax it, the money will be spent on it.

If we succeed, it will only be because of you and the other members of the blogosphere working at the grassroots level.

So, please. Please make your donation today. the SDBWM is depending on you to build his financial independence.

God Bless You and God Bless the United States of America,

SDBWM

P.S.. Please make your donation today of $250, 100, $50 or whatever you can afford to the South Dakota Republican Party. I've enclosed a postage free envelope for your use. ________, we're depending on your support. Thank you. (Close with a PS reiterating the amount)
Gabe Mydland said…
This is funny, very funny!
Anonymous said…
Failed Democratic Presidential contender and Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean thinks we needs a change.

Grammar?
PP said…
Yeah, alright. Me did write that in a hurry.

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