Guide provides overview for direct-mail fund-raiser


May 16, 1994|By LESTER A. PICKER

Well, Baltimore's native son of direct mail is at it again.

Mal Warwick has written yet another book, this one titled "How to Write Successful Fundraising Letters."

This gem of a book is a no-nonsense guide to everything you want to know about direct mail fund-raising. Unlike far too many books of this ilk on the market today, this one is a nuts and bolts, soup to nuts exploration of the topic, written and self-published by one of the masters of nonprofit direct mail fund-raising.

Warwick's name is well known in Maryland. Last year he was the featured speaker at a Baltimore seminar sponsored by Maryland New Directions. He is the author of several books on direct mail techniques, including the popular "Revolution in the Mailbox." Warwick also publishes a monthly newsletter for nonprofits engaged in direct mail and telephone fund-raising.

The 20 chapters in his latest how-to book take the reader on a practical tour of successful direct mail. Chapter One, "You're Writing for Results -- Not for a Pulitzer Prize," is good advice for anyone contemplating writing for public consumption and sets the stage for what is to follow.

Warwick serves up a step-by-step process for developing a direct mail program. He provides scads of rules, tips and techniques that are clear, concise and set apart from the text with subheads that enhance the readability of his work, much as he recommends readers do in their direct-mail pieces.

As Warwick states in his opening, oftentimes the most accurate word to use in a certain context is not the best word. For years, Warwick has advocated the use of more persuasive words, ones that emote feeling and get the reader more actively involved in the material. True to form, he doesn't just give us the rules of writing letters in his new book, he showers us with "the cardinal rules of writing fund-raising letters."

Along the way, we pick up 23 reasons people respond to fund-raising appeals, eight steps toward successful fund-raising letters, 10 other books to help you write successful letters, and a host of other bulleted tips and techniques to turn the most mundane copy into terse, captivating prose. Note Warwick's use of numbered lists, which also sells copy in nonprofit direct-mail pieces. People love to believe that they will receive exactly 10 pearls of wisdom that only your organization can divulge, that will bring them good health, great wealth, wisdom, and happiness.

Warwick's book achieves one objective that eludes most writers in the nonprofit sector. He personalizes the presentation. The effect is that readers get both the student's and teacher's perspective on direct mail fund-raising -- that even includes goofs that Warwick has made, which are highly instructive and often humorous.

The book is divided into three distinct parts. In the first part, the reader is given an overview of direct mail, with enough detail to understand every component and how each of the pieces interrelate. In the second part, Warwick uses case studies to illustrate major direct mail fund-raising principles, as well as specific aspects of a development officer's duties. The case studies cover recruiting and welcoming new donors, special gifts, annual campaigns and high dollar solicitation.

The third section of Warwick's book is called the Letter-Writer's Toolbox, and includes hints and techniques, such as ways to overcome writer's block. All in all, anyone involved in direct-mail fund-raising, or even considering such a move for their organization or clients, should order a copy of this delightful work.

"How to Write Successful Fundraising Letters" is available from Strathmoor Press, 2550 Ninth Street, Suite 1040, Berkeley, Calif. 94710-2516 or by telephone at (800) 217-7377. Suggested retail price is $39.95, with bulk discounts available.

Les Picker is a philanthropy consultant. Write to him at The Brokerage, 34 Market Place, Suite 331, Baltimore, Md. 21202 (410) 783-5100.

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