Jerry Huntsinger

Tutorial 1: creating fundraising letters and packages

by Jerry Huntsinger

The purpose of these tutorials is to stimulate your thinking. Challenge your preconceived notions. Stimulate your appetite for testing a new idea.

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Tutorial 10: Pavlov’s dog and fundraising letters.

by Jerry Huntsinger

It was an experiment that the Humane Society might object to these days. A group of psychologists, including Nobel prize-winner Ivan Pavlov, took a dog and put him in a cage, rang a bell and gave him something to eat. Then they fooled the poor animal by ringing the bell, but not giving him anything to eat. So what did he do?

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Tutorial 11: how to design a fundraising letter: the function of design.

by Jerry Huntsinger

Letters are not supposed to be pretty or attractive, or large or small, or long or short, or colourful or stylish... they are supposed to be read. That’s all.

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Tutorial 12: principles of layout.

by Jerry Huntsinger

There are four critical principles: space importance, eye movement, right dominance, and horizontal and vertical lines.

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Tutorial 13: the PS: how to have the final word.

by Jerry Huntsinger

Your PS is a vital selling tool – just as important as the headline. In fact, the PS is often the first and last words your donors read! Why? Human nature, I guess. A postscript arouses curiosity. It’s irresistible.

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Tutorial 14: how to communicate with photographs.

by Jerry Huntsinger

If ‘a picture is worth a thousands words’ why do nonprofits persist in creating appeals with 2,000 words, or more, with no pictures?

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Tutorial 15: creating a chemical reaction.

by Jerry Huntsinger

When you put a letter, a reply card, a reply envelope and an enclosure in a carrier envelope, you are mixing together five separate elements. But suddenly, when they are all in the package, you no longer have five separate items. Instead you have a chemical reaction.

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Tutorial 16: how to write in a warm personal style.

by Jerry Huntsinger

A professional writer knows that a letter must have more than technical exactness. Personality has to radiate through the words. But what kind of personality?

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Tutorial 17: write the way you speak: 10 suggestions.

by Jerry Huntsinger

Psycho-copy is not crazy copy. I’m not always sure how to communicate the deeper levels of a ‘warm and personal’ style to letter writers. Perhaps it has to be caught, rather than taught.

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Tutorial 18: magic words: the formula for success.

by Jerry Huntsinger

What do Shakespeare, the Bible, the Gettysburg Address and a successful fundraising letter have in common? Magic words. And what makes certain words magic? Their length. Any common word of five letters or less is magic. Therein lies a formula for success.

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Tutorial 19: master grammar and write for action.

by Jerry Huntsinger

As a writer, you need to understand the basic parts of speech – verbs, nouns, objects, adjectives, adverbs, articles, and so on. But you don’t have to worry about the structure of a sentence. Just remember that every sentence usually has a subject, a verb and an object. ‘The house is red’: article, subject, verb, object.

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Tutorial 2: is direct mail fundraising a science or an art?

by Jerry Huntsinger

It is a little of both. If you are a writer assigned to create fundraising letters, then you have to deal with feelings, intuition, motivation. Direct mail is a personal form of communication. And communication occurs only when you reach out and touch a person at a deep level.

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Tutorial 20 - paragraphs: forget school English.

by Jerry Huntsinger

You were taught in school that a proper paragraph had a beginning, a middle and an end. It was a self-contained idea. And that’s true, when you write a school exam.

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Tutorial 21: ‘really, it just doesn’t sound like me’.

by Jerry Huntsinger

Once upon a time I wrote a letter for the president of a nonprofit organisation and I thought it turned out rather well – that is, until she sent me this crisp critique: ‘I really don’t like this letter because it just doesn’t sound like me.’ Sigh. How many times have I heard that? So, dutifully, I called her and asked: ‘What do you sound like?’ She paused.

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Tutorial 22: whatever happened to real stories about real people?

by Jerry Huntsinger

You are probably going to have more successes than failures if you begin most of your letters with an illustration. Your readers are usually in neutral when the letter is being scanned; but once they get involved in the story, then suddenly you have captured their attention.

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Tutorial 23: beware the fatal disease of one-sidedness.

by Jerry Huntsinger

In this amusing, yet thought-provoking article, Jerry comments on a not-so-new affliction that affects many fundraisers…are you one of them?

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Tutorial 24: how to write a long letter.

by Jerry Huntsinger

Extensive testing by a wide variety of charities shows that long copy wins most of the time, especially for prospect mail and emotional house appeals. Of course, there are exceptions and it’s always best to test. Read more here.

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Tutorial 25: 22 ideas for keeping your reader moving on.

by Jerry Huntsinger

Keep in mind these principles when you write long letters.

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Tutorial 26: how to make a short letter work.

by Jerry Huntsinger

Find out how to write successful short letters with these 10 helpful rules.

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Tutorial 27: a good start.

by Jerry Huntsinger

Learn how to edit your letters and begin with that great emotion that often only surfaces until page two.

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Tutorial 28: is it time to get rid of ‘dear friend’?

by Jerry Huntsinger

Is there a better way to get off to a good start when writing a form letter? Here are some alternatives you may wish to consider. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether any or all of them are good, bad, or just plain ridiculous.

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Tutorial 29: slash your letter writing time in half.

by Jerry Huntsinger

I’m assuming that you are already familiar with the basic mechanical techniques for creating a fundraising letter. On the other hand, if you don’t know the first thing about writing a fundraising letter, read on anyway. I’ll show you how easy it is and how much fun you can have doing it.

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Tutorial 3: what makes a successful letter-writer?

by Jerry Huntsinger

A successful letter-writer must overcome human inertia by putting words on paper. A tough job. Good letter-writers are extremely rare, but here’s how you can spot one.

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Tutorial 30: how to pass judgment on a fundraising letter.

by Jerry Huntsinger

For the attention of those who are responsible for approving fundraising letters: this tutorial is for you.

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Tutorial 31: make me an offer I can’t resist.

by Jerry Huntsinger

The problem with nonprofit mail is that often letters ask for a donation, but fail to make an offer.

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Tutorial 32: logic never makes me cry.

by Jerry Huntsinger

Jerry argues that without emotion, your letter will fall flat.

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Tutorial 33: 20 dangerous ways to get your letter off to a good start

by Jerry Huntsinger

Here Jerry suggests 20 letter openings to help kick-start that creative void, but they come with a warning…

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Tutorial 34: whatever happened to authentic emotion?

by Jerry Huntsinger

In Jerry’s thirty-fourth tutorial he asks, whatever happened to authentic emotion? Inspired by a fundraising letter that arrived through his letterbox recently, Jerry shares with us this example and explains why emotion is the one thing a successful ‘ask’ shouldn’t be without.

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Tutorial 35: mistakes that Brenda doesn’t need to make.

by Jerry Huntsinger

When a fresh-faced communications graduate hoping to forge a career in direct mail fundraising asked Jerry Huntsinger (the dean of direct mail) to divulge the mistakes he’d made in his early days so that she could avoid them, he didn’t disappoint.

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Tutorial 36: creative rules not worth breaking.

by Jerry Huntsinger

Stop the press. No, really. If you’re about to send out a new direct mail campaign I suggest you have a good read of the latest addition to the Huntsinger tutorials first. This is an absolute essential for anyone in the business of marketing (and that’s really all of us working in charities isn’t it?)

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Tutorial 37: creative letter writing for non-creative people.

by Jerry Huntsinger

In this tutorial Jerry explains how discipline will get us into the right frame of mind to create a good letter that will raise lots of money for our causes.

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Tutorial 38: how to set up a creative sample file

by Jerry Huntsinger

Find out how you can develop such a file for yourself.

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Tutorial 39: writing letters to men, part 1

by Jerry Huntsinger

‘Men are usually more in a rut than women; they have difficulty shifting from one idea to another. They want to see the facts right up front.’ So says Jerry Huntsinger in the first part of his latest tutorial.

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Tutorial 4: motivation, magic and junk mail.

by Jerry Huntsinger

A few motivations often listed in textbook approaches to fundraising.

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Tutorial 40: writing letters to men, part 2

by Jerry Huntsinger

The first part of Jerry Huntsinger’s tutorial on writing for men prompted the comment: ‘What a well put together article. Something I've often thought, but not in such a clear way. It's given me some ideas!’ SOFII is sure you to will find some new ideas in the second part of this interesting tutorial.

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Tutorial 41: to write a better letter, go fly a kite

by Jerry Huntsinger

Jerry says you will be more successful at writing a letter if you learn and practise a trick of professional writers – a cooling off period at specific intervals in the creative process.

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Tutorial 42: for new letter-writers.

by Jerry Huntsinger

If you aspire to create great direct mail these latest insights from Jerry Huntsinger are a must-read, for you. 

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Tutorial 43: leads for personal letters

by Jerry Huntsinger

A personal letter gives you more time to capture your reader’s attention: about 10 to 15 seconds! Jerry Huntsinger shows you how to get right to the heart of the issue with subtlety, gentleness – and persuasion.

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Tutorial 44: sudden death

by Jerry Huntsinger

When a reader picks up your non-personalised letter, you have about five seconds before your letter suffers sudden death: one ... two ... three ... four ... five – and that’s it.

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Tutorial 45: why I still hate the reply device

by Jerry Huntsinger

Here Jerry Huntsinger says that he really dislikes reply forms, then explains why. You will also learn how to improve this very important device so that it becomes an integral and powerful part of your appeals.

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Tutorial 46: premiums: how to use them and abuse them

by Jerry Huntsinger

Jerry Huntsinger has a pet theory about premiums – otherwise known as incentive devices – based on the principle of tactile response. A human being listens, sees, reads, smells, feels the wind and often receives sensory information through handling an object with his fingertips. So if a donor is reading a letter and nothing else it is easy for his concentration to waiver. Click here to find out what you can do instead of blowing wind in your donor’s face.

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Tutorial 47: answering questions I wish someone would ask

by Jerry Huntsinger

Jerry Huntsinger asks a string of questions that should be asked, then says you shouldn’t allow your keyboard to filter your personality or your voice. And you can find out how his gardener, crazy Eddie, invented a new take on the Johnson box.

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Tutorial 48: seven golden rules for the reply form

by Jerry Huntsinger

Seven golden rules to follow that will really make your reply form work.

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Tutorial 49: persuasion or exaggeration?

by Jerry Huntsinger

Jerry Huntsinger is in a more philosophical mood this week. Here he discusses the fundraising writer’s role in ethics.

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Tutorial 5: what’s all this talk about junk mail?

by Jerry Huntsinger

Mail opening in most households is a time of great anticipation. And since the advent of email and electronic communications, the arrival of snail mail has become a high point of the day. You most likely know someone who laments that they no longer receive letter mail.

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Tutorial 50: ten ways to break out of a creative slump

by Jerry Huntsinger

Are you in a creative slump and don’t think you’ll make that important deadline. Worry no more. In this, his fiftieth tutorial on SOFII, Jerry Huntsinger gives you some ideas that he uses to get over it.

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Tutorial 51: get a second gift: the toughest job of all

by Jerry Huntsinger

More grim news, this time from Jerry Huntsinger: most first-time donors won’t give again. Don’t worry though, as usual he has some sound advice in this latest tutorial on SOFII, with a great ’Welcome to our famly’ letter and strategy that will help you bind new donors to your cause.

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Tutorial 52: executive directors: learn to love a fundraising letter.

by Jerry Huntsinger

Are your CEO and chair of your board afraid of fundraising letters? Do they wish they didn’t have to send them? When you point them in the direction of this new tutorial from Jerry Huntsinger they will learn to love them. They – and you – will find some old tips on how to write a great letter, some new ones and best of all learn just why they work.

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Tutorial 53: principles of testing

by Jerry Huntsinger

This tutorial from Jerry Huntsinger gives you the principles of testing that will save you from drowning in an ocean of facts.

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Tutorial 54: how to survive by the law of probability

by Jerry Huntsinger

It would be so easy to be successful in direct mail fundraising if all you had to do was come up with one winning package and then send it to your house list for the next 10 years. But, surviving in the fundraising world is so much more complicated...

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Tutorial 55: how to get your outer envelope ripped open!

by Jerry Huntsinger

This tutorial from Jerry Huntsinger will show you how to get your donors to rip open your envelope in anticipation of your vital message inside.

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Tutorial 56: strategy for the small organisation.

by Jerry Huntsinger

Are you trying to raise money for a small charity? Worried that you can’t compete with the ‘big boys’? Then head over to this latest tutorial from that other eminent fundraiser Jerry Huntsinger and you will find that you actually have some advantages over larger organisations – who might also find something useful.

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Tutorial 57: stand in your donor’s shoes

by Jerry Huntsinger

Someone somewhere is waiting for your mail. She could be a legacy prospect. Have you excluded her from your mailing list because she gave so little last time – even though she’s been making donations for years?

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Tutorial 6: the power of a letter.

by Jerry Huntsinger

To be successful in this business, you have to recognise the power of a letter. Why? Because there are now so many people in fundraising who understand computers, finance, business management, or work flow systems. All of these skills are basic to competent fundraising organisations. But what’s happened to the letter?

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Tutorial 7: a funny thing happens on the way to the mailbox.

by Jerry Huntsinger

A letter owes part of its power to the way in which it is delivered. Perhaps your mail is delivered to your door. Do you ever rush to the door when you hear the mail hit the floor? Or perhaps you have to walk or travel a distance to collect your mail. Do you ever feel your pulse quicken in anticipation of collecting your mail?

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Tutorial 8: making the reply device work.

by Jerry Huntsinger

When should you omit a reply device? Almost never! The two major exceptions are...

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Tutorial 9: the reply envelope.

by Jerry Huntsinger

If you want to raise money – make sure you include a reply envelope. There are several decisions you need to make and each decision affects the type of package you’ll be creating.

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About the author

Jerry Huntsinger is revered in direct marketing circles as the dean of direct mail. 

Some years back Jerry gifted his archive of direct mail tutorials to SOFII and we’ve been serialising them ever since. All 50-plus are gems. Together, they add up to complete ‘how-to’ guide to everything you need to know about direct mail fundraising.

These tutorials are edited and presented by Gwen Chapman.

Gwen Chapman is a passionate advocate for donor-centric fundraising. She is a senior consultant with international experience in the non-profit sector in Canada, the United States, the UK and South Africa.