Why a pencil is the best tool in your appeal design toolkit…

Direct mail is the bread and butter of many organisations, and that has never been truer than right now. In the face of these rocky waters, it has proven to be the force steadying the ship, continuing to provide a reliable and constant income stream for many wonderful organisations whose services are so desperately needed.

The news isn’t all doom and gloom, and we’re witnessing many continue to enjoy uplifts on their annual tax appeals. If there was ever a doubt about its place in the fundraising mix, direct mail has again proved its worth these past few months and it’s got us thinking how important it is to nail the basics of these campaigns.

Eliciting an emotional response from donors during the COVID-19 pandemic was no easy feat, but our clients placed emphasis on how the lift/supporting pieces in the pack would do just that – lift the response of warm audiences. This year, we’ve seen illustration used to great effect, with it doing much of the heavy lifting.

We know that lifts work best when they aren’t overly ‘design-y’ or produced. The reason illustration works so beautifully is the same reason that you’d be more inclined to read a handwritten letter, than the same letter typed and printed. When everything we see is perfect, we crave raw and authentic communication.

If you haven’t yet considered the use of illustration in appeals, here are some reasons you should:

  • It allows you tell the most powerful version of the story, you’re not limited by what images you have available. This example from LifeFlight Rescue allows the lift to focus on the point in time that the beneficiary, Connor, suffered a horrible accident. Of course its not surprising the family have very few images as they dealt with the unfolding emergency, however illustration allows us to place the reader at the scene of the accident and build on the emotion of the letter.
  • It can appear raw and authentic – there’s no room for overly produced graphic design and allows you to target the heart with visuals that offer warmth and sincerity. This example from Leukaemia Foundation allows us to add a childlike element to the design, emphasising just how scary Maddison’s treatment journey was for her.
  • It can offer a mechanism to tell the story from a point of view you couldn’t otherwise, for example that of an animal or child. With Sydney Dogs and Cats Home\’s recent appeal, we wanted a chance to feature a voice other than the CEO and Head Vet and add some extra emotion. Illustration allowed us to adopt the ‘voice’ of Chopstick, the loveable staffy-cross.
  • It allows you to be flexible and nimble, yes it will take longer in the design studio (and you need a designer who is able to create illustration for you) but there is no waiting to hold a photo shoot, or collating images (if you can even get your hands on these!). Due to the nature of their work, Australian Childhood Foundation are unable to share imagery with their donors, however this recent lift highlights how easy it is to overcome this challenge with powerful copy and hand-drawn illustrations.

Above all else, using illustration in appeals allows your copy and design team the flexibility to get to the heart of the story; the chance to use their imagination, and it follows that the donor gets to enjoy this same level of surprise and delight.

If you weren’t already, now is the time to flex your creative muscles, and put that pencil to work in your appeals.

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