In April at Engage — our one-day case study conference for fundraisers — I had a chance to catch up with fundraising expert Tom Gaffny, principal at Tom Gaffny Consulting.
We got reminiscing about one of the greatest fundraising letters ever written: the "Dirty Lady" letter. Back in the office, I did a quick search in Who's Mailing What! as I was anxious to re-read this copywriting masterpiece. Hooray! Up it popped!
First received back in 1985, the date line in the upper right corner reads "Friday, 10:40 PM" with the "40" a little off kilter as if the typewriter key jumped a bit. The letter starts:
A lady should never get this dirty, she said.
She stood there with a quiet, proud dignity. She was incomparably dirty — her face and hands smeared, her clothes torn and soiled. The lady was 11.
"My brothers are hungry," she said. The two little boys she hugged protectively were 8 and 9. They were three of the most beautiful children I'd ever seen.
The two-page letter continues with powerful copy, short paragraphs that keep the eye moving and a strong close:
A lady should never get that dirty. And a good kid should not be allowed to fall victim to the terror of street life. As more good kids come to us, we need more help. We need yours. Won't you send whatever contribution you can in the enclosed envelope today?
The letter is part of a long-time Grand Control (in the mail for the three years or longer) from Covenant House written by Father Bruce Ritter. And it is a must-read.
If you're a member of Who's Mailing What! simply search on "Covenant House" and use the Grand Control filter. You'll see "Dirty Lady" in the search results.