Pete and Repeat

Do you remember this childhood joke?

Pete and Repeat went out in a boat. Pete fell in. Who was left? Repeat. Pete and Repeat when out in a boat. Pete fell in. Who was left?… I remember being so tickled with myself when I told that joke to adults.

Fundraising needs to be repetitive.

This isn’t an intuitive way for us to operate. We are taught to hone and narrow our messages so they are clear and concise. But, with fundraising, repetition is our friend. Honing your key message still works, don’t get me wrong.

Make your key point early. Then, tell your readers why your key point is important. Then, tell them the key point again.

Fundraising needs to be repetitive for two important reasons:

  1. People skim. They skim your emails, they skim your letters, and they skim your newsletters. So, if you want them to, indeed, read your key message, you need them to see it more than once.
  2. People need to hear things multiple times before they take action. It’s human nature. A donor might get your key message in your newsletter and then delete it while cleaning out her inbox. Seeing it again in your email appeal will spark that memory and reinforce your message. Seeing it a third time might just be what prompts her to take further action.

Repetition is good, not bad.

You may hear from your staff or board that you’re being too repetitive. That’s likely because they actually HAVE read every line of your correspondence! They probably don’t skim as much as your donors do. But, your staff and board are not necessarily your donor audience. So, please keep this in mind when they provide this feedback. Repetition is good. 🙂

Three places to use your repetitive key messaging in any single appeal are:

When writing an appeal, whether as a postal letter or an email, you can utilize the repetition practice by putting your CTA (call to action) somewhere in the top three paragraphs. In other words, get to the point right away. Then, share a real-life story of impact. After that brief, but moving story, work the CTA in again in the wrap up. Lastly, it’s super important to include an abbreviated or compelling ask in the PS at the bottom of your letter.

Again, donors skim. Giving them the opportunity to see your ask in three different segments of your letter will increase your chance of them making a gift.

One more thing – you can also practice repetition by using the same message a couple of times during the year. Especially if you’re a young non-profit, trying to expand your base. Repeating the same appeal will be much more effective than spending a lot of time honing that perfect letter, and then letting that be the only one you send.

Pete fell out. Who was left? Repeat! Good job!

PS: I couldn’t resist this image. Lake Como in the Italian Alps is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever experienced. Thought it was a great place to illustrate the Pete and Repeat joke.


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