The Dreaded SASA LELE!

Sasa lele

Posting this because it’s fun. And it’s a perfect way to end the recent mini-series of posts about heat maps and first sentences.

I hope it rings true that all of us occasionally write and/or design things that make perfect sense to us… but causes our audience to give a quizzical, “huh?”

I’d describe a SASA LELE as any time internal folks think the writing/design/messaging is communicating well, when it’s actually causing confusion and lowering fundraising results.

Here are two “fundraising SASA LELEs” that I see all the time.

The positive appeal letter that communicates that everything is going great. There are pictures of happy, healthy people. There’s a story about someone who is doing great.

There’s 4 pictures and 500 words communicating that things are going very well… and two sentences asking for support.

SASA LELE! The message most donors receive is that everything is going great and their support is not needed right now.

The other example is the appeal letter that starts off with a Thank You and assumes the donor will keep reading.

But you know from the heat maps that a significant percentage of donors will only read the first part… think the letter is some sort of thank you note… remember that they have a bunch of other mail and bills to go through… and put the letter in the recycling.


And here’s a “hot take” for you – SASA LELE does more actual damage to organizations’ fundraising than the mythical “donor fatigue” ever has.

In your direct response fundraising, every word you write and every design choice you make needs to be with the purpose of helping that piece of communication do its one job.

So be clear. Get right to the point. Don’t be conceptual.

Any time you find yourself working on a piece of fundraising where donors need to understand the gist of it at a glance, work like crazy to make it clear, and beware SASA LELE!


Steven Screen is Co-Founder of The Better Fundraising Company and lead author of its blog. With over 25 years' fundraising experience, he gets energized by helping organizations understand how they can raise more money. He’s a second-generation fundraiser, a past winner of the Direct Mail Package of the Year, and data-driven.

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