BethDunn just wrote a great post about mail fundraisng appeals and two schools of thought that are applied to them throughout the industry.
On the one hand there is the practical appeal to a donor's sense of logic and decency. On the other hand, there are the emotional appeals dripping with manipulation sent out to shock or shame a donor into action.
While On Fundraising's primary focus is telephone fundraising, this subject matter is relevant to On Fundraising for two reasons.
Mail appeals and phone appeals are generally part of the same campaign. Sometimes a donor is called first, other times they'll get a mailer and then a follow up call.
Increasingly donors are savvy enough and self-aware enough to take strong offense at the manipulative tone of fundraising letters. We live in an age where almost any information is available to those who want to find it. Todays activist donors do just that.
Donor's often know more about a subject than the front line people raising money for it. As well they should. So sending out these mail broadsides is certainly no good way to show respect for a donor's intellect or for their prior support.
The second reason this issue applies to On Fundraising, is that many telefundraisers mirror or amplify the sentiments expressed by these letters in a misguided attempt to manipulate donors into reactionary giving based solely on emotion. This works for now, however donors are self-aware and savvy enough to know when they're being manipulated. Surprisingly enough, they don't like it.
Todays donors aren't simply tithing blindly in the hopes that some good will come of it. More and more, donors support organizations as active participants in an effort to improve our world. How does a person like this feel when they receive a dunning letter dripping with sensationalized woe? Like a patsy.
All in all, these medieval scare tactics don't belong in modern fundraising. Yes psychology has its place in fundraising, but too often psychology is a euphemism for manipulation. Fundraisers who are good at their jobs are masters of speech, language, and persuasion. Its better to convince someone to give than to trick them into it .