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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

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The room stilled. Sean picked up the microphone.... Aussie "big brain" speaks
Tom Ahern

August, 2013

Sean Triner, co-founder of Pareto, Australia's largest (and arguably best) direct-mail-fundraising-and-telephone operation, is known as "Big Brain" by his friends and admiring colleagues Down Under. (He's also a certified "dangerous snake handler." Watch the YouTube video of him in training. The snake wins.) 


Sean is a terrific direct mail "language mechanic." I watched him rewrite an appeal letter by cell phone as we walked along a white-flour Aussie beach. Waves crashing. Coconuts thumping. Turquoise skies. Dolphins serving drinks. Sean on phone: "Move that phrase to the front of the paragraph. Better. OK, let's go over the ask again...." It was a long call. I went body-surfing. 


Recently, Sean, in his blog or somewhere, shared his personal checklist for direct mail SUCCESS. It's worth having his checklist handy, next time you pick up your pen to tenderly ask for help. 


Here's Sean... 


Now, for you fundraisers - some great tips for your next appeal...

  • Personalise. Dear Sean is good, but go beyond.  Thank me for my specific actions and give me credit for everything you achieved.
  • Tell me a beautiful story, with a beginning, a middle and an end -and don't leave me feeling it is now fixed. There must be a need at the end.
  • Don't worry about how long it takes to tell me that story AND the points below:
  • Make sure there are frequent and very specific asks. The specific ask should be the right amount for me, not a generic ask amount.
  • Take personal responsibility. Write the letter in first person singular. Don't "we" on your copy. Remove every 'we' replace with 'you', 'my colleagues and I' or whatever makes sense.
  • Repeat the specific ask.
  • Have a deadline. This is very important. Find a reason, overcome barriers - but get one.

Every. Single. Time.

  • Repeat the specific ask.
  • Build urgency.
  • Repeat the specific ask.
  • "Witness" the story (i.e., "I spoke to Bob today and he said...")
  • Repeat the specific ask.
  • Have a target.
  • Repeat the specific ask.
  • Summarise in a PS.
  • Repeat the specific ask.
  • SHOW me the need; not all nice fixed stuff - there has to be something that would be bad if I didn't give.
  • Repeat the specific ask in the PS, and spell it out - fill in the form with your details, put in the envelope and send to me by...
  • Don't worry about the length of the letter, as long as it is good, engaging and emotional. It is hard to get everything in without using at least 3.5 pages (including shorter first page with all the header stuff) in point 12 serif font. [TA: make that point 14, for eyes over 60.] 



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