Your hurt pride is beside the point: More lessons from the DNC

I have been getting a lot of inspiration from the Democratic National Committee lately...but unfortunately, it's probably not the kind of inspiration they're aiming to deliver. Not to pile on after my last post, but I just can't help myself: Get your comms act together, DNC!

Last week, I received an emailed invitation to help the DNC chart their direction moving forward. On the surface, this is a great idea. People love to armchair quarterback -- clearly, I'm no exception! -- and surveys are a proven way to engage donors. Even if a survey-responder doesn't donate at the time of the survey, she's much more likely to give later on.

But take a look at the copy they used:

Let's start with the headline: "Let's rebuild this party together." 

"Rebuild" is a terrible choice here. It tells donors that the organization is wallowing in their failures. It tells donors that the party is a mess. It immediately puts the DNC on the defensive, sounding more like a disaster-relief fundraiser than a political powerhouse.

And sure, the DNC probably does need to do some rebuilding. But their use of that word tells me they don't have a clue what their audience needs right now. Democrats across the country are frightened and angry, and they're begging for someone to come out swinging on their and the country's behalf. Rebuilding the DNC is not going to make sure people have healthcare next year. It's not going to stop hate crimes or protect our civil liberties or keep us safe from nuclear war. 

I do like the urgency of "right now," but it's lost with the weakness of "rebuild." 

And last -- but definitely not least -- using "Let's" here is such a waste of a headline. Yes, people want to feel like they're part of something bigger than themselves, but they also want to feel like their individual contribution to that something bigger is valued. A well-placed "you" would make this ask so much more compelling.

Imagine the difference if the headline read something more like this:

We're gearing up for the fight of our lives...and YOU can help us start right now!


Take a look at that line: "...building a Democratic Party we can all be proud of." Does that make you want to leap off your sofa and take action? Then it's not doing its job.

Fundraising and activist communication are both about one thing: getting the donor to act. Whether you're just asking her to fill out a survey, or you want her to give a gift (this piece asks for both), you want to get your potential donor so fired up that she can't help but open her heart and her wallet for your cause.

Sure, we'd like to know our donors are proud of our efforts. But donor pride shouldn't be the end-goal. The end-goal is building a better world, not building a better organization.

Here's another harsh truth: donors don't give because they care about your organization. They give because they care about what your organization does. They give because in doing so, they feel like they are shaping the world they want to see. 

Fundraising copy should be about action. It should be inspiring. It should be moving and focused on the donor. It should be bold and visionary and fiercely committed to making the world a better place.

Anything less is insulting to the donors who give you their hard-earned money...and unlikely to give you the results you really want.