Jitasa Nonprofit Blog

Cause Camp Recap: The Power of “YOU”

If you weren’t fortunate enough to attend Cause Camp, either in person or digitally, you missed out on some amazing speakers. In this short series, we’ll be focusing on the speakers we found most inspiring and providing a breakdown of what they discussed.

Tom Ahern

Tom is an award-winning copywriter who utilizes his skills and experiences to aid the nonprofit community. In his own words, Tom makes his living by “writing cases and direct mail … by doing audits, reviewing and recommending fixes for donor communications … and by teaching others what I’ve learned during decades of trial, error, and the occasional spectacular success.”

His experience as a former salesman allows him to guide the nonprofit world on how to speak to their donors in a way that leads to increased donations. He discussed how to appeal to donors in copy driven communications (think mailers or thank you letters). Below are our takeaways from his Cause Camp presentation:

1. “You” is glue

Tom was very adamant in his presentation that YOU is the single most important word when speaking to your donor community. It acts as a glue that cements someone to the page they’re reading. As one of the top 3 words in sales, “you” will keep your readers attentive and engaged to what is being asked of them. Speaking to your audience will always garner more results than speaking at them. That means that donor asks, thank you letters, and webpages should be littered with “you” statements.

2. Dumb it down

If you haven’t heard of the Flesch Kincaid scale, you are doing yourself a disservice. It is a simple tool (located on word or online) that will analyze your writing and assess it with a grade level “readability” score. According to Tom, your goal is a 6th grade reading level. It sounds silly, why would you want to treat your readers and/or donors as if they were 6th graders? It’s simple, even if your donors include astrophysicists, brain surgeons, and PhD’s…Tom reiterates that “the lower the reading grade level, the higher the compression level.”

To activate the Flesch Kincaid scale on Microsoft:

  • Go to file
  • Click options
  • Click proofing
  • Check the box that says “show readability statistics”
  • When you review the word count your readability statistics will now be featured

3. Stay on Message

Thanks to the internet, many suffer from a constant need to consume. As a result, you typically have a reader’s attention for about 15 seconds. It cannot be emphasized enough that you stay on message and keep your copy clear, conversational, and concise. Tom brought up the handy acronym “SMIT” which stands for the SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT THING you have to say. If the reader only takes away one thing from your mailer, email, or blog…what do you want it to be?

I had never heard Tom speak, and after doing so I would highly recommend hiring him. He covered what marketing courses often spend months on in just a short presentation. In addition, he kept it lighthearted and honest, and he isn’t afraid to call out copy examples and explain why they are great, or why they suck. As his website states, he “will bluntly tell you…what your donor communications program should be doing differently to achieve your organization’s financial goals.” To find out more information about Tom and the great work he does, visit http://www.aherncomm.com/ and/or follow him on Twitter.

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