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The Power of Good News

The Power of Good News

Just recently we received our renewal mailing for our RSPB membership.

I wanted to mention it because it was one of the best letters I have read for a long time.

I suspect like many charity donors and members, I began reading it half anticipating that I knew what the content would be – thanks for your help, still need your support, the need is still huge, helping making a real difference, please renew – or something along those lines.

So it was a great surprise, and a great pleasure, to read in the first paragraph about cranes breeding for the first time in the 400 years at Lakenheath Fen and about the heartening increase of the number of corncrakes in reserves.

The second paragraph told me about successes with albatrosses internationally (who like many other species were sadly heading at breakneck speed towards extinction) and the fourth about new reserves bought and secured in the UK for wildlife.

In fact the letter was about nothing other than the good news of RSPB successes. For that reason alone it was great to read – positive, uplifting, encouraging and, a rarity in our line of work, optimistic.

Turn over and there is a lovely piece about the success of Hope Farm in Cambridgeshire (more good news) and three suggestions about how we might make the most of our membership.

This last bit is the best of all. The first suggestion is to take a flask of tea and a pack of HobNobs to Somerset or Lancashire or Suffolk or East Yorkshire to watch a starling show.

“The starlings come in slow at first, a flock like a thin ribbon. But then others gather, building fast into an undulating mass. Thousands of starlings performing awesome aerobatics together. And the sound of all those wings…you have to hear it to believe it”.

In contrast to most charity communications I read (which is a lot), the picture they have created with those few well chosen words is wonderful – something I can easily imagine, and something I can feel part of whether we ever go to see it or not.

The other two suggestions are equally good – reading the RSPB magazine when you have the house to yourself (and to take it outside and sit in a deckchair in the garden so you can hear the birds) and seeing an RSPB victory on breakfast TV to preserve a beautiful wetland from the clutches of land developers.

Three things struck me once I had finished reading it.

Firstly it was one hundred per cent positive – by the end I felt part of something that was succeeding – and obviously that was a good feeling. I wanted more of it.

Of course, I was expecting to read about more problems, more need, more challenges to overcome and it was genuinely refreshing to find the opposite. While I know of the success of the classic “need”, “solution”, “how you help” approach of most direct marketing it strikes me, for membership particularly, that this is a much more inspiring way to approach it. After all what feels better – feeling part of something that is working and succeeding or feeling like despite everything, you’re still fighting a potentially losing battle? And especially now in the current economic climate, perhaps we are more inclined to grasp at any bit of good news that comes our way.

Secondly the images the copy conjured up were wonderful – linking our membership to simple pleasures and the wonders of nature in a way that was evocative, motivating and genuine. I could really imagine the scenes they described in a way that felt real and inspiring and accessible.

Thirdly, the language was much more about us than about the RSPB. “You feel wonderful, because your support has helped make this victory possible. It is your victory. You spoke up for nature and won.” How much more engaging and involving it is to be included in the successes of an organisation, rather than read sentences that continually start with “We” or “Our”.

We renewed without a second thought. Job done. In a recession and amidst all the doom and gloom I think that is no longer something that can be taken for granted, and something to be applauded.

Since 2004, John Grain Associates (JGA) have worked with hundreds of clients to help them raise more money. Specialists in individual giving and supporter care, they are passionate advocates of ethical and transparent relationship fundraising. Over the past 15 years JGA have worked on developing and implementing strategies, generating imaginative and engaging creative content, providing insightful research, offered interim support and mentoring, and delivering a range of bespoke supporter care training programmes.

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