Tutorial 40 - writing letters to men, part 2

Written by Jerry Huntsinger

Jerry Huntsinger

Jerry Huntsinger is widely known and respected as the dean of direct mail fundraising.

These tutorials are edited and presented by Gwen Chapman.

More Huntsinger tutorials here.


Letters for businessmen

A single mailing rarely works. An extended campaign with multiple mailings is usually necessary. This may include pre-campaign announcements, pace-setting gifts, a series of letters, emails, telephone follow-ups, etc – there is no shortage of such techniques.

Usually a series of short letters is necessary. Your chances of getting the full attention of the businessman at any one time are rare.

He may seem to ignore your communication, but he tucks it away in the back of his mind. Then, your next appeal letter comes – and the next.

He doesn’t resent the series. Indeed, he may expect and require several letters from you, just to be sure you are serious.

Your series of letters gives him a framework of logic, necessary before he can arrive at a decision. Your persistent ‘knocking’ makes him feel important. In fact, it’s flattering. He may say, ‘all they want is my money’, but even that is a form of flattery.

Almost always send a personalised letter with first-class postage. A generic letter is the kiss of death in most offices. Assistants often stack mail in two piles – personal letters and non-personal letters.

Also, he is most likely to scan your letter if the layout is simple, easy to read and doesn’t make him work to understand what you are saying.

Usually, you will have the best response with a one or two-page letter.

The formal letter

A formal letter is really a game you play with the reader. And to win the game, you must disguise the motivation behind a screen of formality.

Several techniques can be used to achieve this goal:

1. Organise your material logically, with one argument leading to the next logical step.

2. State the purpose of the letter in the opening sentence. The purpose of this letter is to ’…’

3. Summarise the request at the conclusion of the letter.  ‘In summary, we are requesting your consideration of a $5,000 pledge toward the building fund and during the week of May 24, I’ll call you to receive your decision.’

4. Keep your grammar simple and precise. Don’t get stuffy. Continue to use colloquialisms and informal patterns of speech.

The college alumni letter

This is a tough letter to write. Should you be serious? Formal? Nostalgic?

In my experience, most of the usual emotional techniques used in direct mail fundraising will fail with alumni. I suspect this is because an alumnus expects his college appeal to be of a higher tone than the other charities to which he responds.

In a way, the alumni association is a part of his extended family.

This may be one reason why personalisation is so important. You can get by with non-personal newsletters, magazines and other communications.  But to collect the money, your best chance is to be highly personal.

Also, writing to alumni is almost a waste of time unless you develop a strong campaign, either for the annual appeal, or for a special project. The one-shot letter simply won’t work. Alumni like goals and challenges. They like to be a part of a larger movement involving their former peers. And they like to win. Your letter must give them a chance to help make the victory possible.

The renewal letter

This again is one of those situations when strategy is more important than copy. A renewal letter must ‘sell’ the benefits of membership, the uniqueness of ‘belonging’, community responsibility – or simply the fear of being left out.

One technique is to write all the letters in the series at one time, establishing an exciting theme – a ‘hook’. Then, each letter pours into the theme as the campaign builds.

However, don’t fall into the trap of attempting to bypass the techniques of persuasion – motivation – action – involvement. Many alumni letters, for example, are just plain boring.

Short letters are appropriate in a renewal series and personalisation is vital, especially if there is an attempt to upgrade the level of giving.

In conclusion, writing fundraising letters for men is tough work. In many societies, the distinctions between men and women are disappearing.

But, as long as women still cry at weddings and men still kick the tyres on the used car, there will be a place for letters that motivate men.


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