First sentence: Best of 2014

Screen Shot 2015-03-08 at 6.17.01 PMI’m a word person, but even I stand daunted by the floods and floods of text surround the asking for contributions. The emails and letters never…stop…coming. In many of the asks, the development department kicks off their letter by carefully re-stating the obvious of who you’re supporting — “Thank you for your past support of Punktinet School,” or “Thank you for continuing to support The Wild Places Conservation Trust.”

Well duh.

I know to whom I have given, even to whom I might give (if I’m already on their list). I gave them my credit card, or wrote them a check last year. So did every other donor. And there’s the logo right at the top of the email or letter.

So why are organizations missing the ask as a chance to deepen their relationship, or spark new thinking in their donors? How about telling me WHAT I will be supporting?

The Phillips Collection did well this year. Their writer did not miss the chance to position the organization afresh in my eyes. In the ask, he or she did not state up front that I would be giving to the Phillips Collection. That would have plunked them into the pool as yet another ask from yet another art museum in Washington DC — bricks, mortar, frames, docents. Instead, the Phillips started with a bang, thanking me for supporting “the living experiment in art and culture that is The Phillips Collection.”

Color me intrigued. Who wouldn’t be curious about a “living experiment?” This is not just four walls with good art on them. Nothing museum-dead here. Something is alive and growing at the Phillips, like beneficial mold in yogurt. And “art AND culture” (my emphasis) — again, all signs point me to the idea that I’m being asked to participate in something much livelier than a classic museum.

In just that one sentence, the Phillips snugged itself into position as a most interesting place. They went on in their letter to hang some meat on the claims of living experiment, and art-and-culture. The whole letter was written with punch (and it was brief, too).

Nicely done, Phillips Collection. You had me from the first sentence.