Showing Versus Telling
From time to time, words alone are simply not enough to communicate a story—even for the most eloquent. Intensity and emotion are, at times, better conveyed through imagery, and with its newest acquisitions control, FINCA witnessed firsthand the impact of showing versus telling.
For almost a decade, the Washington, D.C.–based nonprofit—which provides financial services to the world’s lowest income entrepreneurs—depended on a steadfast control to acquire new donors. It was a copy-driven package that consisted of a compelling four-page letter, reply form and envelope, but lacked premiums or graphics. But when the organization decided to tap into its relatively new collection of photography to test the impact photos could have in depicting its mission within its long-successful control, the new photo package emerged as a clear winner.
“FINCA actually sent a photographer around to its programs about four or five years ago to take photographs, and they have an incredible collection of really wonderful photography of the people that they’re helping,” says Craig Lamb, a Santa Fe, N.M.–based
adviser to FINCA’s fundraising program. “So that prompted us to think that pictures can tell the story a lot more easily sometimes.”
In April 2007, FINCA tested a package similar to its traditional control that featured those photos on a note card freemium, and later that year it officially became the control. “They were fabulous photographs, and we thought we would convert them into note cards to give to people as a freemium that actually connects to the organization and its mission rather than mailing labels,” notes Lamb. “And we also suggest in the letter that people use these note cards to let people know about FINCA” (Archive Code #605-637291-0808).
This year, FINCA’s acquisitions program has produced nearly 7 million direct mail packages—an increase of 2 million since 2007—and this new 6? x 9? control package now dominates the organization’s seven to eight annual prospect mailings. Copy on the carrier envelope refers to the premium, “Note Card Collection Enclosed,” and inside, a four-page letter tells the story of the organization’s mission, along with personal stories of two women helped by the organization’s programs.