The appeal opened with a description of a sweet little baby, and proceeded to deliver this bombshell:
“Then he’s dead. Dead in 24 hours. Lying open mouthed to the night air, with his mom and dad weeping.”
Strong language for an appeal? Yes. Concrete and graphic? Yes. Taking aim at donors’ emotions? Yes. Gratuitous guilt-tripping? Not at all. Not even close.
In this case, the appeal was about the tragedy of babies dying in poor countries. So it made perfect sense to dramatize that problem as vividly as possible.
Then, the initial comments came in.
“Too over the top,” they said. “Too shocking.” So it was watered down. But why?
For a lot of reasons, but mostly fear. People are reluctant to rock the boat or disagree. And in truth, many clients are reluctant to risk donor complaints.
It’s understandable, of course. But then again, anything that’s even slightly outside the boundaries of the accepted gets nixed, and what’s left is the lukewarm, the middle of the road, the mediocre.
If writing copy for fundraising is about anything at all it’s passion for the cause. We can’t have that and, at the same time, let fear hold us back from connecting with donors at a visceral level. Which is what we absolutely, without question, must do.
So, we have to push forward. Test the boundaries. Take a risk. Go out on a limb. Try something bold, even if it doesn’t work.
It’s the only thing to do, because there’s only one other alternative, and that way lies mediocrity.