A: There are a lot of questions, but as the answers are relatively short, I will answer them all:
What are the basic rules for maintaining tight and effective messaging? How long should appeal letters be?
Short, sweet and to the point. Personally, I think a letter that is longer than a page tells me that an organization is more interested in pushing information, than what the reader may have time or interest in receiving.
Point to your website. Include an article that you think the reader might find interesting. But keep it brief. And, while you are editing it all, consider including an ask within the first couple of paragraphs. You are not going to trick anyone by waiting to the last paragraph; instead you risk the reader throwing out the letter before they have been asked. And that would be a waste of everyone’s time.
And don’t forget the PS! Research has shown that after checking to see that their name is spelled correctly, a reader will view the PS more than any other section of the letter.
How often can you quote your group’s mission before it’s over-used?
Unless your mission feels tired, I don’t think you can ever “over-quote” it. It makes me wonder why this question is being asked right now. Are you tired of the mission? If so, perhaps it is time to consider a different position. Or create a process with the leadership of your agency to review and reframe your mission, vision and values.
Do you feel that you are telling the same people the same thing all of the time? You don’t have to preach to the choir (or continually tell supporters the mission), but staying on message strengthens your brand over the long-term. And, if you want people to support your mission – they need to know what the mission and vision is for your organization. If you feel like you are always searching for new ways to talk about your mission, make sure your mission statement is short and concise and consider putting it on the bottom of all communications – like a tag line in an advertisement. After all, you are trying to spread the word about your organization at every chance you can get.
How do you get the average reader to care enough to get involved?
What or who is an “average” reader? Very few organizations have one type of person who represents the bulk of the population. Instead, consider someone specific whom you would like to get more involved. Now write or market your next piece towards him/her. It will resonate with other people – not everyone – but enough people that you can determine whether you solicited their involvement in an appropriate way.
Not sure if you know what would resonate with that particular person? Call and ask him/her to read through it and let you know what they think. This will help you target your piece and it is a perfect excuse to contact a potential donor and ask them for advice. As we know, personal contact is a much better way to get an individual involved than what any mass mailing could ever accomplish.