Friday, July 06, 2012

Reviewing the CTF Pension Pitch

Call me crazy, but one of my hobbies is dissecting fundraising letters, which I believe are under-rated forms of communication. A good fundraiser has to be informative, concise and most of all persuasive. And believe me, getting people to donate hard-earned cash with written words aint easy.

At any rate, every once in a while I like to review such letters. In the past, I have reviewed a New Democratic fundraiser and one from the National Citizens Coalition.

Now it's the Canadian Taxpayers Federation's turn. Here's my take on a CTF letter that recently turned up in my inbox. My comments are in bold italics.

Dear Supporter,

MP pension reform is a campaign we’ve been waging for over 20 years and we firmly believe that this summer is the last window of opportunity to give this issue the boost it needs.

This opening is OK, but dull. A letter needs more oomph at the top. Why not start with a little outrage over Bev Oda's pension? After all, the retirement of such a wonderful target to a lavish pension is a once in a lifetime opportunity that shouldn't be wasted. Something along the lines of:

"Dear Supporter:
Did you hear the news? Cabinet Minister Bev Oda, who made headlines with her reckless spending on things like $16 glasses of orange juice, has retired and will soon enjoy a massively rich pension!

It's true!

Soon Oda will get a super-rich pension payout that you and I in the private sector can only dream about!

We estimate her pension to be worth a whopping $700,000!

This must never happen again. The gold-plated pension plan must be reformed!!"

OK, that's a little rough but you get the idea.

Prime Minister Harper has committed to bring forward reforms to the MP pension plan this fall.

Why say this? I mean it might be true but it takes away from the letter's urgency. A reader might say,"Well if the PM is going to bring forward reforms this fall, why should I bother making a donation now". Never give a donor an excuse to bail.

If the politicians don’t hear from taxpayers over the summer you can bet that any changes introduced three months from now will be underwhelming.

OK -- but again, a little limp. Why not something a little punchier:"If you and I don't put pressure on this government soon, they won't reform this obscene pension".

That’s why with your support we’re hoping to launch a national billboard campaign this summer.

This is good. Always helps to garner donations when you give supporters a chance to contribute to something concrete and tangible ie a billboard ad. But why not include link to a graphic of what the billboard will say and look like? Make it real. Also don't say "hoping to launch" say "we will launch."

As reported by the CTF on June 28th, the most recently released numbers for 2010-11 show that for every $1 an MP contributed to their pension fund, taxpayers kicked in $24.36.

Would have added a little emotional jab after this fact: It's outrageous!

We were reminded yesterday of just how ridiculous this pension plan is with embattled cabinet minister, Bev Oda, resigning her seat effective July 31st. Ms. Oda who was first elected eight years ago in 2004 will instantly start to collect an annual pension we estimate at $52,183. That’s $701,464 by the time she reaches age 80.

Again, Oda is introduced too late.

Making it worse, unlike a normal pension fund, the MP pension fund isn’t actually invested. The federal cabinet has simply ordered taxpayers to pay the “fund” a 10.4% annual interest payment. No doubt many Canadians who lost their shirts in 2008 would have liked that deal.

That’s the message we plan to take to taxpayers and politicians alike this summer: For every $1 an MP puts into their pension plan, taxpayers put in $24.

All good stuff. Gives the letter some meat. Makes it credible. And the populist appeal about Canadians losing their shirts is a nice touch.

Can you chip in $24 to add your voice to MP pension reform? We hope this will be the last time you contribute $24 towards MPs pensions. You can make your donation through our donation website:

I really like this. Asking for a $24 donation to match what taxpayers kick into the pension plan is a great gimmick. On a campaign I worked on in the US, we asked people to contribute $17.76. Get it? But this ask should be explained a little better to lead the donor with a logical progression.

Something like this:
"To make this campaign a reality we need your financial help. You are forced to contribute $24 to the MP pension plan, but we are asking you to voluntarily contribute $24 to our billboard campaign. Make your voice heard!!"

If we don’t push back on this plan now, it could be years before we get another opportunity.

Needs a stronger conclusion: If we don't win this battle now, we never will! 

Thanks for all you do,

 Troy, Scott, Shannon and the entire CTF team

Posting all the names of staff is cute, but it kind of destroys the illusion that this is a letter from one person to another person. Makes it less personal and thus less effective.

P.S. If we don’t take action this summer, MPs will come back in the fall and rush through some minor changes. Moving from $24 to $1 down to $18 to $1 or $12 to $1 isn’t good enough. Join our effort to demand taxpayers match MP contributions for their pension $1 for $1. Donate $24 here:

Always a good idea to include a PS. But at least when it comes to letters on paper, you should assume the PS is the only thing a donor might read. (Often it is) So it should be a stand alone message that gets your point across succinctly. In this case the PS is more like a continuation of the letter. In fact, this stuff should have been in the heart of the letter.

Now if I seem a little too critical of this letter, please understand, I actually like it. Overall it's well written and it gets to the point with clarity. Plus it's focussed. And getting it out while Oda is in the news shows a good understanding of the importance of timing.

It should raise the CTF some dough, which when you come right down to it is the main thing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I do not always agree with you but you are dead on with this analyisis