How a lift note can impact your environmental message

People today can become immune to almost any communication tactic.

But there’s one method that almost never fails to get a reader to pause. And even a one-second pause…(“Should I keep reading?”) can make or break your appeal.

The lift note.

Lift notes are nothing new. The Direct Response community has been using them to great success for years.

The idea is simple. Get the attention of your reader with a short little message written by someone else.

“Someone else” can be pretty much anyone other than the person writing the rest of the message. It works especially well when it’s someone the reader isn’t expecting to hear from.

Imagine my delight when I open up an email from Robert Redford! Who wouldn’t take an extra second to see what he has to say?

Environmental organizations have a big advantage over other nonprofits

Celebrities love environmental causes.

A lift note written by a celebrity grabs our attention because, let’s be honest, everyone wants to be just a teeny-weensy bit like a celebrity in some way or another. Here, the lift note inspires a bit of envy and curiosity, and we can’t help but keep reading.

For example, NRDC used Rachel McAdams in an emailed lift note on June 6th to gain support for their campaign against offshore drilling. In this case, McAdams does the hard selling and once you click through (because, come on, who wouldn’t? She’s beautiful and smart and caring!), you’re rewarded by a simple summary box and directions on how to sign this petition.

Easy peasy, and they didn’t even ask for our money. We come away feeling a little bit like we might have something in common with sweet Rachel.

NRDC also frequently uses Robert Redford in a lift note scenario. In a good example on November 23, 2015 they start us off with a nice little lead personalizing this larger-than-life figure by talking about his worries as a husband and father. Then, the click-through takes us to a video of Redford for the hard sell. This is a brilliant move as Redford is commonly known for his melodious voice and movie-star-good-looks. We can’t help but press play.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. throws his weight around with the Waterkeeper Alliance in frequent emailed lift notes. As RFK Jr. is the President of the Waterkeeper Alliance, readers might expect to see an email from him. But, in this case, the effect is the same. A well known, environmentally-associated name grabbed our attention and inspired us to keep reading and click-through. To make his name pack more punch, Waterkeeper wisely doesn’t use RFK Jr. for every email or communication, thereby making the emails we do receive from him all the more powerful.

How to write a powerful lift note

A celebrity message isn’t the only thing making these type of lift notes powerful for environmental organizations. An effective lift note must utilize a great headline, or in many cases, a good, captivating email subject line.

In fact, a good lift note utilizes more than just a name and a headline, but also must adhere to every other quality of a good donation or sales letter.

  • A strong lead. If you don’t hook them in the first few seconds, even the smiling face of an admirable celebrity won’t do you any good.
  • Using the lift note senders name in the From line in an email and a good picture of the person writing, even if they’re not a celebrity. Everyone likes to put a face with a name.
  • Stick to the Rule of One. Here is the most important aspect of a well-written lift note. Choose one argument, preferably one that isn’t covered in the main body of the message, and slam it hard. Talk about benefits of supporting you that you don’t always mention. A lift note is not the place to tell the reader everything your environmental organization is working on, or the great successes of the last year, or the list of challenges you face in the year ahead.
  • Make sure it’s unique. A lift note, regardless of who writes it, should be written in a different tone and voice than all your other communications. That’s what makes it so hard to resist. It’s different.



Think outside the box

If you don’t have celebrities at your disposal, don’t shy away from the power of a lift note. Use anyone who can enhance your cause with their support. For environmental organizations, you can utilize experts, scientists, satisfied donors or people affected by your good works.

The main point is simply to talk about what you do from a different perspective, one that may give your reader and potential donor a different take on what you as an organization are all about.

At the end, you want the reader to move onto the next step (whether that’s clicking through to read a main donation letter, signing a petition, opening the rest of the envelope, or any other call to action) with a good, positive feeling about your cause.

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