The 10 Percent Solution in Fundraising. Or, Why Messaging Rules

The standard in direct marketing, whether it’s fundraising or for-profit marketing, is that the mailing list will account for 60 percent of your success or failure … the offer accounts for 30 percent … and the creative? Just 10 percent.

This is based on decades of marketing history, and it’s indisputable. But …

Even though creative may be a measly 10 percent’s worth of the overall effort, that doesn’t mean it’s insignificant. That doesn’t mean you focus all your time on the list and the offer and just wave your hand over the creative and consider it good enough.

No, weak creative — and especially, weak messaging — will doom a fundraising campaign.

Now, of course, if the list is bad, your mailing goes to all the wrong people. That’s not good. And if the offer is bad or, more likely, vague, then even if your appeal does go to the right people, they’ll be bored by it. But think of it this way.

What if your list and offer and good, but the messaging is off strategy? Response will suffer, guaranteed.

Example: consider Nike, the literal powerhouse in branding. You can bet that before they do anything, they research and research to make sure every step they take is the right one. Let’s say they’re developing a new campaign. They do tons of market research. They map out their media strategy. They pour millions and millions of dollars into ad buys.

And then, with all that as the backdrop, they introduce their new slogan, Just Try It. Wouldn’t THAT land with a thud? And all because the messaging was just a little bit … off.

Suddenly that 10 percent for creative doesn’t seem quite so insignificant. Truth is, you can have all the data, strategy, and analytics in the world, but if the messaging in your appeal is off — even by a little bit — then your whole fundraising campaign will be too.

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