Can’t look away!
How entertaining are your communications with your donors?
Ministry personnel may cringe at this term, but fear not.
Entertainment is the phenomenon of being interested, intrigued.
- Friends stay friends in part because they find each other interesting, even amusing.
- Likewise, boring appeals rarely raise money.
- Your donors should come to expect something fascinating every time they receive a piece of mail or email from you.
Certainly, you need to maintain the same character each time you communicate with your donors — but you must vary your presentation enough to be interesting.
Here’s what we tell ministry principals and marketing directors:
Be an excellent writer.
If you can’t be, hire an excellent writer. (Not a formal writer — a vivid writer.)
Ministry marketing is too expensive to have donors yawning and dropping your appeals in the trash, or hitting the delete button.
Use active verbs.
A letter or email to a donor should have life. Pep. Zing. Or drama. Or charm. Or bits and pieces of all of the above.
If the donor comes to expect boring, low-energy communication from you, the relationship is doomed.
This concept applies to more than the text of your donor communications. We find that when the look of a ministry’s mailings and emails vary from appeal to appeal, reader interest is heightened.
- If you resist the idea of visually interesting graphic devices in your mailings, is it because you want to believe your donors are loyal enough not to “need” graphics? You may be thinking more like a seller than a buyer.
- Do you dislike the idea of “eye bites” — short paragraphs, underlined phrases, narrowed paragraphs — which help the reader through the package? They tend to capture and hold the reader’s interest.
- Would you rather your donors were so fascinated by your ministry that such devices couldn’t increase readership of your appeals any further? If only this were true! But it isn’t.
Your donors, just like virtually all donors in the marketplace, need their interest to be gained and held. That’s entertainment!
Entertainment also involves connecting with the emotions of a person.
Emotion is absolutely crucial to the science of direct response.
A small minority of donors will respond on a strictly intellectual basis to an appeal; a vast majority will respond emotionally.
- Communicating information is essential, but information must be balanced by emotion. Omit information and your appeals are empty cheerleading exercises; omit emotion and they’re cold, clinical treatises.
Neither generates maximum response.
It is extremely easy for a ministry to become boring to its donors because of a “seller mentality”: we fail to distinguish between being fascinated and being fascinating.
In the same way, it is extremely difficult for a ministry to become entertaining to its donors. There are myriad obstacles to overcome:
- the hard work of thinking up new approaches to text and graphic design for appeal after appeal;
- staff members who recognize how much extra work it is to do something different each time;
- the bias against entertaining because it contradicts our view of ourselves as sophisticated leaders;
- a deep-down resistance to the notion that we need to be entertaining in order to make a connection (because we want to believe that the donor is eagerly awaiting our next communication);
- and this list probably goes on.
In spite of the difficulties it causes to the ministry, as the “seller,” entertainment is crucial to connecting with the donor, the “buyer.”
Jesus was the Master Entertainer. He didn’t do stand-up comedy, but He riveted the attention of His audiences with a variety of devices. He talked to them on their own level, about their own concerns, in their own language — and He pulled no punches.
Time and time again we read about members of His audience hearing His words and then trying to crown Him king — or plotting to kill Him.
Jesus got a response!
His words were vivid.
This is a clear symptom of entertainment.
So should we.