Wednesday, August 13, 2008

It's not you, its me

If you’re like me, nothing drives you madder than someone you meet spending every breathing moment talking about their favourite subject: them. Their favorite type of curry, their views on what’s right and wrong with the world and even their two bob’s worth on Cristiano Ronaldo’s possible transfer.

We’ve all been there as we try desperately to excuse ourselves to visit the bathroom in the midst of them gabbling about their son’s upcoming football match. Actually, if we are really honest we have probably been guilty of this ourselves.

So if we get that, why do so many charity communications talk about us, the organization, rather than you the donor? And more importantly, those we are helping, the beneficiaries.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past six years analyzing how charities respond to unsolicited approaches from donors through a series of mystery shopping projects, where armed with real bank details we attempt to do a number of things including make real donations.

And I’m often astounded at the level and breadth of those communications which focus on the bricks and mortar of the charities we try to support rather on the impact our donations will have.

Consider these two pieces of contrasting copy within charity materials.

We at the are celebrating our 75th anniversary this year and we hope you will come on board us as we celebrate this momentous occasion in our history.


I would hope that you can join me in the fight against childhood cancer and to help little boys just like Tommy.

The first is entirely organizationally focused, insular and cares more about birthday cakes and party streamers rather than changing lives. In fact changing lives or the cause for which they exist is not clear from this sentence.

Contrast that with the second piece of copy. Personal (using language such as ‘I’ and ‘you’), uses empowering language and talks about human impact, using a real case study.

Time and time again, through critiquing hundreds upon thousands of charity communications I constantly feel let down and frustrated. I (as a donor) don’t want to know, nor do I care about anniversaries and parties. I want to know about someone like little Tommy and how I can help make a difference to his life.

So whether you’re sitting in Vauxhall or Vancouver, spend ten minutes looking at every communication that leaves your building. You may just be a little surprised at what you find.

No comments: