One of my favourite websites is www.lettersofnote.com. Do you know it? The editor, Shaun Usher, describes it as ‘an attempt to gather and sort fascinating letters, postcards, telegrams, faxes, and memos…Fakes will be sneered at’.
Most days there’s a new addition – a new piece of inspiration. Today, I’m going to share a few of the exhibits I like the most.
You think Elizabeth Taylor can tell me about writing? Really?
I’ll admit to being surprised, but this delightful letter to a fan shows the late Elizabeth Taylor had some decent advice for copywriters everywhere. Take a look (you can see the original exhibit here).
Let's extract some of that excellent advice for fundraisers:
- Write a personal letter to one person, not many.
- Address them as a friend – they support you after all.
- Tell a story.
- Share the little details that make it interesting.
- Create a connection (Elizabeth offers to let Jean know when her book is out).
So what’s this about a conman?
I'm guessing Victor Lustig gave himself the title of ‘Count’. He was a pretty effective conman. He sold the Eiffel Tower (twice) for scrap metal despite, of course, never owning it. These are the ten commandments he wrote for wannabe conmen (see the exhibit here)
- Be a patient listener (it is this, not fast talking, that gets a con-man his coups).
- Never look bored.
- Wait for the other person to reveal any political opinions, then agree with them.
- Let the other person reveal religious views, then have the same ones.
- Hint at sex talk, but don’t follow it up unless the other fellow shows a strong interest.
- Never discuss illness, unless some special concern is shown.
- Never pry into a person’s personal circumstances (they’ll tell you all eventually).
- Never boast. Just let your importance be quietly obvious.
- Never be untidy.
- Never get drunk.
Reading these set me to thinking – perhaps with a few small edits, might these make some decent rules for a fundraiser?
How many would you keep? I’d definitely hold onto:
- Be a patient listener (it is this, not fast talking, that gets a fundraiser his or her coups).
- Never look bored.
As for the rest, it would be probably wiser not to comment!
What a letter can do?
More seriously, www.lettersofnote.com includes letters that are hugely inspiring. Like this one, which I quite often show people. You can find it on the site on a post called 'Goodbye Son', together with a transcription.
This letter was written to three-year-old Christopher by his dying father. Somehow, every time I read it, my eyes go blurry and water starts coming out. For me, it's the measure of what a letter can do, right down to the power of the handwritten annotation – 'your dad says, I love you!'
I like Letters of Note because it's not about fundraising, but also, as you've seen, it is. You see things that get you thinking. You find ideas that you bring back into appeal or fundraising ideas. But then a few months back, Letters of Note really did become about fundraising when I saw a tweet linking to www.unbound.co.uk
Unbound is a site where people pitch their books and, if you’re interested, you can help them get published. Here’s the page where the Letters of Note book was pitched (it’s now fully funded). My interest in Letters of Note came full circle when I ended up supporting the book, which I am really looking forward to getting hold of.