May I Have Your Attention, Please?


Adding emphasis in your fundraising letters is very important.

No donor wants to read a giant block of text. Too much text too close together is far from compelling. It’s difficult for older eyes to look at.

All the great things you’re trying to tell them get lost.

A much better practice is to emphasize the text that you want them to read.

If you bold, underline, circle, or highlight the right words and phrases in your letters, and do it in the right places, you’ll raise more money.

Let’s think about why…

We know that when a donor receives your fundraising letter, they’re most likely to skim their eyes over the page. This is where it’s important to realize that you will read the letter differently than most donors will. You’ll read it word for word, from top to bottom. But donors will skip around as they read.

And you have to design your letter for the way donors read, not for the way you read.

First, remember that your donors are busy. So as they scan your letter, they’ll generally start at the top left (to make sure the letter is addressed to them), and then move down the page, stopping ever so briefly at certain points.

It’s these “certain points” that you need to emphasize by using techniques like bolding and underlining. Think of it as telling a story within a story. A great way to test this in your next fundraising letter is to ask yourself… if my donor reads nothing but the bold and underlined text:

Do they know what the problem is?
Do they know how they can solve it?
Do they know what they’re being asked to do?

Like most styles of writing, underlining text shows that it is important. We all did this when we were at school, right? My textbooks were always filled with highlighted words. It told me to stop and pay attention. The same is true for your donor.

For example, you should consider underlining the copy telling the donor what the problem is. What is the real need? Is it that a family is sleeping in their car tonight? Is an animal being abused or neglected?

Then go ahead and underline, or even bold the copy that shows the donor how their gift is going to solve the problem. This is generally the offer in your letter. Give a homeless family a night of shelter for $49. Rescue a frightened, abused animal for $19.

Lastly, you should also think about adding a bold or underline treatment to your call to action and deadline (the date you want the donor to respond).

Emphasizing the right text by using techniques like underlining and bold will pull your donors in. It will get their attention and get them reading. And if you can do that, then you’ll increase your chance of receiving a donation.

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