Before I became a partner at Good Works, I was a client (twice in fact!).
Way back in 1989, Good Works was known as Fran Lowe and Associates – and it was led by its founder, Fran Lowe. When I started working with Fran, she taught me two very fundamental lessons:
- First, she told me that when I was writing direct mail copy, I should imagine that I was writing to an elderly aunt.
- Second, she taught me her very straightforward 4-step formula for making a direct response appeal.
Fran’s formula was based on her understanding of how the donor’s mind works. And, I must say that after 20 years in consulting, I think her take on the donor brain was bang on.
Fran called her approach ‘Problem, Solution, Credibility, Ask’. Here’s how it works In a bit more detail:
- 1) Start by describing the problem. Be vivid, emotional and personal in describing the pain of poverty, the fear cancer brings or the sadness of an abandoned puppy in a shelter.
- 2) Now, transition from the ‘pain of the problem’ to the hope of a solution. Describe the way in which the problem can be solved. That solution could be an affordable place to live, a less invasive surgical method or a puppy adoption program.
- 3) Now that you’ve established the problem and its solution, it’s time to talk about your organization and its credibility at solving the problem. Ideally, you want to position your organization as the only or the best provider of solutions to the problem you’re talking about.
- 4) Finally, make your ask.
Now, I’ve used (and taught!) this 4-step approach for the past 20 years – and it hasn’t let me down yet. It’s a universal approach that I think fits pretty much every fundraising situation you could imagine.
Now, I’d like to add my own contribution to Fran’s Four-Step Formula…
I think it fits stewardship just as well as it does solicitation, with a couple of minor adjustments.
So, Fraser’s Four-Step Stewardship Formula goes like this!
- 1) Tell the donor again about the problem she was originally solicited about. You may have the impulse to think ‘but she already knows this’ – but I want you to overcome that impulse and tell her about the problem again!
- 2) Now, I want you to do the same thing with the solution. Tell the donor – yes again – how the problem can be fixed.
- 3) Now, we depart from the solicitation script. Instead of talking about your own credibility, I want you to talk about the donor’s wisdom in trusting you to provide that solution.
- 4) Last but not least, give your donor ALL the credit for bringing the solution to life. For replacing pain with comfort, loneliness with friendship, suffering with peace – whatever it might be.
So give it a try!
The next time you’re writing a thank you letter, or preparing speaking notes to thank donors at an event – pull out Fraser’s Formula and see how it works. I think you’ll be very happy with the outcome. And, I’ll bet dollars to donuts that you’ll make your donors happy too!