Sitting in the first row on a flight from Houston to Huntsville this week, I had the opportunity to observe the flight attendant pop in a CD, which as we departed, launched into the "Please take out the passenger safety information card in the seat back in front of you and follow along" message. I quickly tuned out, as did everyone around me. But then I had an "aha moment," as I thought about the connection between this repetitive drone and the annual fund letters that are being penned as I type.
It's that season - when we all too often take out last year's letter that speaks to gap between tuition and the cost of education (I visualize the Grand Canyon) - and change the date and the name of the annual fund chair. The message is the same, year after year, just like flight safety spiel (unless of course you are flying Southwest and then it's actually humorous). Just as I stopped listening after 10 seconds, so will donors, unless the approach is creative, engaging, and tells me something I haven't already heard.
As you craft your annual appeal, I encourage you to step back and think about what your audience would like to hear. Donors want to feel valued. They would like to know how their money is spent and the impact of their gift. They appreciate engaging in dialogue, rather than being told what ABC School needs from them. And most of all, they want to feel a personal connection with the institution and the people there.
So, throw out last year's letter and start from scratch. A "passenger-focused" strategy has made SWA a top-ranked airline - it can work for you as well. Safe - and successful - travels!