9 ways of highlighting your ask string

Fundraisers know it’s not all about the money, it’s about the relationship. But money’s an important part. If you’re using a direct mail piece, you have to let the copy do the talking and build the relationship.

“If you don’t test anything else, the gift array makes the biggest difference,” said Robin Riggs, chief creative officer at RobbinsKersten Direct. Riggs and Kevin Pickett of M.D. Anderson Cancer Center shared with attendees of the Direct Marketing Association Nonprofit Federation 2015 Washington Nonprofit Conference some ways to highlight the ask string on your direct mail reply device.

Static array: The gold standard, either dollars or dollars and cents.

  • Linkages: What does the donor’s gift do? You can write, “$28 can provide food for a family of four.” Riggs recommends using unrestrictive words like ‘may’ or can.’
  • Personalized: Highest previous or most recent gift. “I’m a firm believer in using something real,” said Riggs.
  • French asks: six or more suggestions. Donors see the highest gift in the array and aspire to that.
  • Circled ask: “These absolutely work no matter what,” said Riggs. It makes the appeal look hand-written. Don’t put the circled amount first; it has less impact.
  • Circled upgrade: Have a standard array but include any special conditions attached to a particular amount, such as a 2:1 match.
  • Highlighted ask: There’s so much going on in a reply device that it’s helpful to draw the prospect’s eyes.
  • Gift array with match: Do the math for the donor: This amount becomes this with a match.
  • Midlevel invite: The purpose of having different levels is it gives people something to aspire to, said Riggs. The donor might rather be a “benefactor” than an “associate.”