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Emphasizing the positive
Deborah Block and Paul Karps

November, 2010

There seems to be a running debate in direct response fundraising as to whether it’s better to emphasize bad news or good news in an appeal.

Focusing on “the bad,” the argument goes, can enhance a sense of urgency and need in the reader’s mind—and thereby more effectively rile up an emotional response. On the other hand, focusing on “the good” can create a positive feeling serving to reinforce the idea that the recipient’s gift will truly make a difference.

Certainly, there are those who argue that the “good news” approach can be counter-productive. If everything’s so great, they reason, why do you need my money now? Or why should I give you a gift when Organization B over there has a real crisis on its hands? Indeed, with this in mind, many nonprofits reserve good stories for their donor newsletters and bad ones for their solicitations.

So we thought we’d share with you two packages from Save the Children that elevate the “good news” strategy to a whole new level of sophistication.

Both mailings—an original and a follow-up—arrived in 6 x 9” outer envelopes using a similar graphic look. As you can see here, they immediately zero in on the “Good News” theme:

Mailing #1

Mailing #2

The two packages both include two-page letters that are big on the warm and fuzzies. The follow-up, in particular, thanks the donor profusely for her support.

But it’s in these mailings’ respective components where things start to get interesting.

The first package includes a 3-3/4 x 4” booklet that profiles five of the group’s health workers around the world. The interesting parts are the front and back covers. The front reads, “See where the good goes.” The back has a headline that says, “Take action” and this copy beneath: “You can help health workers reach and save more children by taking a variety of effective action steps: Support. Join. Give. Advocate.” And here’s the kicker: “Visit to learn more.”

Now, all of a sudden, those proverbial silos are crashing down. And we’re talking about a full-blown integrated marketing campaign—complete with “The Good Goes blog,” Facebook and Twitter presence, and much more. Take a look at the actual site and you’ll see what we mean.

The follow-up mailing then includes a window decal that reinforces the campaign’s strategic message: “I DO GOOD”—along with the URL

There’s a real symmetry, by the way, between the messaging in the two direct mail pieces and what’s on the Web site, as well as the same graphic appearance.

All in all, an impressive effort . . . and a perfect example of how emphasizing the positive can, in fact, be used successfully in direct response fundraising!

To see the complete first package, click here. And to see the follow-up, click here.

Copywriters Deborah Block and Paul Karps are partners in BK Kreative, 1010 Varsity Court, Mountain View CA 94040, phone (650) 962-9562 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (650) 962-9562      end_of_the_skype_highlighting, email


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