Most often, the words we use when we write or speak are chosen to communicate what we know and want, rather than what the reader/listener needs.
And most of the words are meaningless. Totally off point. Irrelevant. Ineffective.
We break two rules when we do this:
- We ignore what the other person needs and wants. In major gift work, the words we should use are about the donor and what she’s interested in, what her circumstances are, what pressures she feels, what constraints she has. It’s only about you when her interests and passions demand it.
- We forget that people don’t read or scan everything. This is true in all of life. On this point, Seth Godin writes: “Ten words per page. That’s how many words get scanned the first time through. Perhaps five on a billboard. Which means that your memo, your ad, your announcement, your post – you get ten words. Highlight the ten of the 1,000 you’ve written. Which ten do you want someone to scan so that they’re intrigued enough to slow down and read the rest? If you can begin with the ten words and write around them, you have the foundation for an effective message. As Jay Levinson said, the best billboard ever said, ‘Free coffee, next exit.’ What do we see when we scan your work?”
Stop and pull out that outline you’ve written for that presentation. Or print out that proposal. Or the draft of that email you intend to send day after tomorrow. Stop and think about that phone call you’ll make in the next hour.
What words will you use? Be careful. If you’ve listened carefully to your caseload donor, you’ll know what to say. Those words are right.