Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Longer is still better

Last week I talked about testing.

We often at Pareto Fundraising test letter length. Time and time again, the same result occurs - a longer letter beats a shorter letter.

Jeff Brooks wrote about this topic today at DonorPowerBlog. And as we have come to expect he is spot on, again.

I often joke that if I had a dollar for every time someone had said to me (in response to perusing a long, say 4 page letter), "I wouldn't read this", well I would be a lot wealthier than I am right now.

But why do longer letters work? Surely it is counter intuitive?

Yes it is. But they regularly out pull shorter letters because you need a longer letter (usually around 4 pages) to tell a compelling story, use case studies to illustrate, repeat personalized ask amounts, tell the reader how much you need, how and by when.

Let's face it: we like to be told what to do and how, whether we like it or not. Well certainly when it comes to direct response fundraising.

Making it easy by telling the donor what we want them to do, how we want them to do it and by when takes some time to do properly.

Hence why long still beats short.

Of course with anything, if you're unsure, test it. Although referring to my earlier posting, I wonder if this is one worth really bothering about.

It's been tested to death and the results are invariably (regardless of which agency or charity you speak to), the same. There are few exceptions. And when I have seen exceptions, the copy is usually crap.

So keep fighting hard for the long letters. They will continue to help more benefactors. And that's what it's all about.



John Lepp said...

Thanks Jonathon. Certainly I have seen the same results, especially in prospecting. But what about with the house file. We have produced a smaller pack which we call a slip pack. Simple small OE, BRE and the letter reply is setup on a 8.5 x 7 split in half. Or smaller. Can be effective for a House 3 or 4. So the letter tends to be a one or two sided 8.5 x 3.5 - "we've written before, the need is still very great, please give now." I believe it's been tested against a standard pack and works very well in it's urgency.
The other point is (I can't believe I am saying this) cost. With a 4 page letter, unless you want to do matching with the coupon, you may have to resort to a "Dear Friend" letter. I would guess that you know that there is increased cost to do a 4 page letter and separate coupon and matched and mailed, but the return out weights the cost.

Jonathon Grapsas said...

Hi John

Actually my experience is it works better on house. Longer always out pulls shorter.

Yes there is an increased cost, but the NET return is always greater.

It is worth the additional cost in lasering, matching and quality control.

Of course the caveat is that it has to be a damn good letter, not a piece of crap! That goes without saying.

For anyone obsessing about cost, I strongly urge them to read this brilliant book by Dan Pallotta - http://www.uncharitable.net/

A must read for all involved in our sector.