Why I Think About Rhonda When I Write To Donors, And You Should Too

By Ajay Rajan

Writing copy for donors is hard. That’s why I always think of my mom’s best friend, Rhonda.

Thinking about Rhonda personalizes my writing. Without even realizing it, I stop using insider jargon. I start using words that connect readers to the cause. And it pushes me to write about issues that they care about.

The end result: better, tighter copy that my intended audience actually reads and responds to. All thanks to Rhonda.

When I was a kid, Rhonda* was always nice to me. She used to give me these chewy candies every time she saw me. Rhonda knows everything about everything, a great Trivial Pursuit teammate. She works hard — even as a retiree — and spends lots of time with (and money on) her grandchildren.

I’d describe Rhonda as emotional. I’d describe her as a do-gooder. As someone who can’t pass up an opportunity to make the world a little bit better. And these characteristics make her the perfect audience for my fundraising copy.

In general, writing to one person is a transformative strategy. Web content, direct mails, newsletters, thank you notes, and certainly emails all have higher response rates when I write for one person. Even though the actual audience is large.

Writing to one person changes the tone without the writer noticing. It makes for more authentic copy. And the reason why is simple: When you truly visualize a single individual reading what you write, you become more sensitive to your word choice. You start to think about how she will react when she reads what you write. It’s easier to put yourself if in the shoes of your reader.

But finding the right person to visualize is the true key to success. See, Rhonda is ideal because she’s a typical donor.

  • I have to make her the focal point of my writing or else she stops reading.
  • I have to make it skim-able because there’s no way she is going to read every word.
  • I know I have to make it emotionally compelling because that’s what she responds to.
  • And, if I’m really smart, I’ll include a short, to-the-point story that captures what I’m trying to convey.

Your reader is a real person. She’s busy with her job and family and Facebook and you wouldn’t believe who she ran into at the supermarket last week (it was Phyllis, who came back from Florida early because her grandson is starring in his school play).

And when Rhonda receives an email or letter from your organization, you’ll have a precious moment or two to capture her attention. You know Rhonda will be interested in what you have to say if you can just get her to focus.

The secrets to getting her to focus: a quick story, an emotional tug on the heartstrings, and, above-all else, an unyielding emphasis on making Rhonda the hero who can save the day.

Then, when you finish writing and you’re confident Rhonda will read your letter and understand the opportunity that you’ve presented to her, you’ll actually have a letter-to-the-masses in your hands. A letter that speaks to its recipients as individuals. A letter that will surely yield higher returns.

*Rhonda’s name has been changed on the off chance that she is reading this and identifies herself as the subject of this story.

Raimy Rubin is the manager of the Pittsburgh Jewish Community Scorecard and writes for Cause Match.

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