According to the Direct Marketing Association, direct mail delivers between 60 and 80 percent of total fundraising revenue in the average fundraising campaign, and we’d venture a guess that it’s even higher for political fundraisers.
Just as using direct mail is imperative to your political fundraising efforts, getting it right is crucial to the fundraiser’s success. Without the right text or visuals, you likely won’t get nearly the same return on investment that the above statistics indicate. Here are four effective tips for crafting the perfect direct-mail copy for your political fundraising campaign.
Tell A Story
To get the support of local constituents, both for fundraising and for voting, you need to compel your audience to care about you and the issues you stand for. Your audience needs to know who you are, what’s important to you, and why you deserve their support.
A great way to do this is by telling a story. Accomplishing this through direct-mail copy means that you need to have a strong focal point. You’ll need to determine your core value proposition. It’s the one thing your audience should know about you, and it’s the one aspect that defines you as a candidate. It should be easy to explain and easy to grasp.
Finding the core value position is important for storytelling in direct mail, since you won’t have a lot of space for detail. By having that strong focal point, you’ll be able to make a greater impact in a short space, and leave the non-essential details for other media.
A good storytelling technique is to strike an emotional chord with your audience. Connect with your constituents by showing yourself as relatable and empathetic. This technique works so well that Aristotle called it pathos, and listed it as one of the classic modes of persuasion. You can do that with references to your personal life, or a short explanation of why you care deeply about a specific campaign issue.
Your voters don’t want to be treated like a faceless mass that you simply use to gain office. But at the same time, you’re likely to mass-produce your direct-mail pieces, making it impossible to personalize letters or postcards to individual constituents. Finding a balance between personalization and ease of production is crucial.
One way you can achieve personalization without sacrificing efficiency is with mail merges. Many nonprofits already use this technique to some degree, beginning letters and postcards with a “Dear [First Name]” that’s pulled in automatically from the mailing list.
But don’t be afraid to go beyond this basic use. The more you know about your potential voters, the more chances you have to personalize the entirety of your direct-mail copy. Thank current donors for past donations and mention specific amounts, or add into the text a campaign issue that you know a specific neighborhood of voters cares most about. Depending on the accuracy and exhaustive nature of your database, there are almost no limits to personalization with a mail merge.
Another important part of personalizing your message is to write it in a conversational tone that seems like it was actually written by you, and not your PR staff or campaign manager. Your audience does not want to be sold to with “sales speak” when making an important decision about whom to elect. Instead, they’re likely to vote for the candidate to whom they can most closely relate.
We get it: asking for money can be a difficult proposition. You may be tempted to send out a political fundraiser postcard or letter that doesn’t ever address what donation you’re actually looking for. But as it turns out, your audience will be much more likely to donate if they’re faced with a specific request.
How to determine exactly what that specific request should be depends on your needs. If you have information about your audience’s financial situation, you may want to use it to create a dynamic list with donation requests that increase based on income, then drop it into your direct-mail piece via mail merge. You could tie different requests to your various campaign pieces, then track which one generated the highest ROI. Or you can take the grass-roots approach, asking for little and thereby ensuring that a high percentage of recipients will find it easier to contribute.
But being specific goes beyond the actual ask. Instead of just asking for money, be sure to tell your audience just why it’s important that they help your cause. Tell them how their money will be used, why it’s crucial to help you gain office, and when they can expect to see a return on their donation after you take office. “Your contribution of $50 would help me buy 25 yard signs” is a much better approach than “I need $50.”
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Use Multiple Touches
Don’t treat your direct-mail piece as an isolated tactic whose success or failure depends entirely on how much money it raises. In marketing, the rule of thumb is that it takes seven touches to make a sale, and the same rings true for political campaigns. A constituent who has never heard of you is unlikely to contribute to your campaign, but someone who has met you at an event will be much more likely to become a donor.
For your direct mail, that means you should write your copy based on the fact that you have previously interacted with many— if not all—of your recipients. Reference past events and increase the conversational style we mentioned above. It also doesn’t hurt to mention future events and potential interactions with your constituents, which will significantly increase the chance of gaining donations through the course of your campaign.
Used correctly, direct mail can be a powerful tool to engage your audience and increase your donations. By using the medium to tell a story, getting personal, being specific, and treating each piece as just one of many touches you will have with your constituents, you ensure a good return on your investment.