Let's talk about real estate

You’re drafting a letter – your next Annual Giving, a gift acknowledgement, a personal letter, or a news item for your website. Once you’re completed the address/date portion, what part of the item is the one the addressee is most likely to notice? The first sentence, and probably not all of the first sentence – the first three or four words. Those few words may be all that the prospect reads! (Well, they'll probably read the postscript.)

Don't waste that precious real estate on openings like these:

  • As 2014 draws to a close...
  • This year we celebrate...
  • XYZ was founded in 1945....
  • Thanks to the generosity...
  • Following on the success of last year's.....

Why not?

  • They speak from the point of view of the organization, not the reader.
  • They're addressing topics of interest to the organization, not the reader.
  • They're talking about the past.
  • They're unrelated to mission.
  • They contain no exciting words, create no visual image.

Yes, it takes a little extra effort to start at the heart of the matter rather than at the beginning. But enticing the reader to read beyond your first few words is well worth effort, and a lively opening sets you up as an organization worth listening to, and an impression that may well extend to other things you write.

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