The Most Important Word in Your Year-End Appeal Letter

I received an end-of-the-year fundraising letter last week. And it talked and talked about this wonderful organization and all the good work it has done. It went on and on to tell about its impact and its outcomes, making sure the hot buttons were all pressed.

iStock_000009339939XSmallBut one huge thing was missing. It never referred to ME, the reader. Instead, the people signing the letter talked on and on about themselves, and their cause. It was a very ego-centric letter. It seemed self-interested and self-focused.

What did the letter writers do wrong? There wasn’t a single “you” in the whole letter.

Not even a “thank you for everything you have done to help make us successful.” And not, “you have beeen part of all our successes.” And not, “as you probably know . . . ”

The letter writers missed EVERY single opportunity to refer back to me, the donor and reader. They focused only on themselves and their own agenda.

My reaction?

Well, how do you think that made me feel? Did it make me feel welcome as a supporter? Did it make me feel proud that I had helped to accomplish all those wonderful results? Did it remind me that I am squarely on this organization’s bandwagon? No, no and no.

Did it make me feel like I was being left out? Or like I was not important? Or like they had forgotten that I have been a long time supporter? Yes, yes and yes.

Count your pronouns! Do you ever stop to analyze the pronouns in your letters? The words “I,” “we,” “you,” or “they?” You should try counting them sometime.

The most special word in the English language is the word “you.”

Every letter you send out should have the word “you” prominently displayed in the very first sentence. And use first person (I or we) only after you’ve used “you.”

You see, the word “you” pulls the reader in. It gives the reader something to be interested in – himself!  Whenever “you” appears, you can be pretty sure that the reader is going to keep reading.

“You” engages the reader, and let’s her know that you care about her.  That you are interested in what your donor might be thinking. Or feeling.  That you care about your donor as a whole person, not just as a wallet.

This is what a donor-centered letter is all about.

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