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"How long should a letter be?"

That's a question we hear from clients and colleagues alike. Of course, the smart aleck response is "As long as it needs to be to sell what you're selling."

That answer also happens to be the truth.

These days, it's a common belief that less is more, that nobody reads long copy. At B Direct, we would append that assumption and say that nobody reads long copy that doesn't interest them. This week, we received a solicitation from the ASPCA that includes a letter that isn't one or two or even three pages long. It's four pages. (Wow.) Nevertheless, we would wager that many of the package's recipients will be reading it.

It's not just long, it's beautifully written.

And it has pictures of a dog.

Not just any dog; Leilani, an abandoned and injured Shih Tzu mix, left in an elevator after giving birth to stillborn pups.

(At this point, we're basically looking for the response device — through our tears — so we can send some money STAT.)

Here's just a sample of the emotionally compelling copy:

"You might think that ASPCA team members would be difficult to shock. We see so much neglect and abuse of innocent animals — we should be hardened by now. But we aren't.

For every case like Leilani's ... every kitten abandoned and left out in the cold ... every dog allowed to kill or be killed in a vicious dog fight ... every horse beaten or left to die of starvation — every time — we still cry."

The letter continues to outline the important work the ASPCA does and how we can help "save lives of more desperate animals like Leilani." Even the P.S. (one of the best-read elements of any direct mail letter) keeps our interest. "P.S. Leilani is now experiencing happiness and love for the first time. With your financial support, the ASPCA can help save animals like Leilani and so many others. Their only hope is caring people like you. Please rush your gift to stop cruelty to animals today."

Other elements of the package are simple but effective. There's a personalized 2019 ASPCA membership card. It's tipped onto a reply device that suggests donation amounts, ranging from $20 to $500. There are multiple credit card options, a place to provide an email address for the digital version of ASPCA Action, and an opportunity to learn how to include the ASPCA in your will. Finally, there's a postage paid BRE, although a corner cut line explains that adding a stamp will help them save more lives.

Not for profit direct mail is a science unto itself. In addition to tried and true techniques, the best packages tug at your heartstrings (Leilani's story), use a little guilt (the membership card), and make it as easy as possible to respond (the reply device).

The Bs at B Direct give this package a bittersweet but definitive thumbs-up.

 

 

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