How do you know if a fundraising letter is a success? If a child doesn't want to throw it away!

My daughter arrived home from school the other day and promptly started kvetching when she spotted the contents of our family’s recycling bin.

“MOM! Why did you throw that away?”

She wasn’t referring to the empty hummus container, but rather an unopened fundraising letter from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Sitting amidst the detritus of kitchen garbage, it practically glowed (at least in her eyes).

You can bet that St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital knows what works in fundraising pieces. They’re known as a powerhouse of direct mail fundraising. They test everything, and so every element of this letter (though it may look casual and unstudied) is targeted to make donors respond.

Despite its serious content, this letter (inside and out) was:

  • Colorful

  • Simple

  • Playful

And believe it or not, this is what you should be going for with most any fundraising piece. It should look like a regular person created and sent it… it shouldn’t be boring… and it might even perform better if it looks a little wonky (or wabi-sabi, if you like).

I’ve read this from enough of the great teachers of philanthropic writing to believe it deep down. And my child confirmed it with her defense of the St. Jude letter from the horrors of the recycling bin.