Effective fundraising copywriting has some qualities that seem to get under the skin of the people who review it. Jeff Brooks has written about this on FutureFundraisingNow.
It’s simple, repetitive, emotional, dramatic, and makes people uncomfortable. These are all good things, not bad things. Especially that second-to-last one — dramatic.
To break through the clutter, copy has to have drama. But then it’s called “over the top” and “too dramatic.”
It’s a misguided criticism by reviewers, and to prove it to yourself, just watch TV.
In one Cadillac TV ad, seemingly normal people on a city sidewalk suddenly acquire expressions of beatific rapture as they turn (in cinematic slo-mo) to swoon at the sight of the car passing by (also in cinematic slo-mo). Sun glints off the windshield. The pedestrians then gaze in admiration at the driver, who belies the slightest, most barely perceptible yet knowing look of pride and status.
These people have been transported into realms of enchantment because they have never before in their lives beheld a car as beautiful as this one.
Is that ad over-the-top dramatic? You bet it is. Did Cadillac’s ad agency use every dramatic effect in the toolbox? Of course. Do they know how to persuade people to buy Cadillacs? Yes they do.
Cadillac is merely selling cars, and yet they pull out all the stops without hesitation.
We’re saving lives, transforming lives, changing the world. If anyone has a legitimate right to use every dramatic effect possible it’s fundraisers. Copywriting that’s too dramatic? If it’s within ethical boundaries and it stirs donors and moves them to do good, then there’s no such thing.