A copywriter’s Christmas checklist


It’s summer, so in traditional DM fashion we’re dusting off our Christmas hats and preparing for a snowstorm of festive brainstorms. Regular Consider writer and charity-specialist Clare has learned a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t over the years. She’s put together some pointers to bear in mind when you’re crafting your Christmas comms.

Five checkpoints for a cracking Christmas mailing:

1. Doormat impact

First things first. How do you ensure your mailing stands out among the multitude of envelopes and flyers cascading through the letterbox? A different colour, a distinctive shape or size, an arresting headline, a glimpse of something tantalising through the window could all do the trick. So too could a simple, handwritten envelope, perhaps with a festive stamp, modestly holding it’s own amid its more shouty rivals.

2. Seasonal sparkle

Make your mailing relevant. Christmas is a time when people give, so encourage them to add an extra gift to their Christmas list, for someone who needs support. Tap into the touchstones of the season – good food, warmth, comfort and companionship – and show ways your kind-hearted reader can spread Christmas cheer through your charity. Tune into the fun of Christmas with a tongue-in-cheek alternative gift catalogue, a festive fundraising idea or an annual event, like Age UK’s annual carol concert.

Sometimes simple is best. A traditional Christmas card hand-signed by the team, together with a warm letter thanking them for their support over the year might be the most appropriate communication for your supporters.

3. Keep it real

People give to real people – particularly at Christmas. Authenticity shines through and a genuine story, told from the heart, will always be more moving than an invented one. Strong, sincere case studies are gold dust – gather them and treasure them. If they have a strong link to Christmas, even better.

Mind’s last Christmas appeal focused on Caitlin, who called Mind’s Helpline when she was feeling desperately depressed at Christmas-time. I met her (and her cats) at home and hearing her story firsthand was vital in creating a really personal, heartfelt pack.

We featured engaging photos of Caitlin and diary extracts in her own powerful words, decorated with the quirky doodles she drew to express her feelings, at the suggestion of a Mind adviser.

Emotion alone isn’t enough. Build on it with concrete examples of how your support helps. And demonstrate the positive impact gifts make on lives.

4. Involve your audience

Christmas is the time to make your supporters feel warm and fuzzy. To thank them for all the ways they’ve helped throughout they year and make them feel they’re a valued part of your team.

It’s a time to acknowledge you know who you’re talking to – by using their name, referencing how they support you, or mentioning where they live (you could focus on a local project).

It’s a particularly bad time to give donors a guilt trip, to shock or pressurise them. We should remember and learn from the tragedy of Olive Cook and be sensitive and respectful to supporters. A soft ask, or a single-minded thank you, may be the most appropriate approach and the most positive for your long-term relationship with your donor.

Christmas could also be a good time to reinforce that you respect your supporters’ wishes and communication preferences (see our opt-in/opt out article).

When you’re telling a story that moves or inspires – like Caitlin’s – supporters may want to do more than give. Provide a mechanism for them to express their feelings or bring them closer to the cause. You could ask people to share Christmas memories or recipes, or suggest they write a message on a tree ornament or gift tag, to decorate a hospice or children’s centre, for example.

In the Mind pack we asked supporters to help break down the stigma about mental health, by writing words of support on a card. These were displayed together to spell out a larger, positive message of solidarity at Mind’s head office and online.

5. Stocking fillers

Popping something extra in your mailing comes naturally at Christmas. But don’t just put in an incentive (or several!) just for the sake of it. Ensure it’s integrated with the rest of the pack. Make it functional, fun or both.

A gift doesn’t need to be flashy or costly – consider a sheet of wrapping paper, gift tags or stickers, or a recipe (this was a good fit for a Centrepoint pack focusing on how hostel residents were taught to cook and eat cheaply and healthily).

A decoration – to slot together or cut out and customise. Or turn to the trusty calendar – it may not be original but it has a purpose and longevity, keeping your cause in the recipient’s mind throughout the year.

The natural choice for the Mind pack was a quirky Christmas card drawn by Caitlin – it tied in with the rest of the pack, and had a clear purpose.

Ask the experts

The Consider team is here if you’d like to pick our brains. We’d be happy to help you find the best way for you to make the most of your Christmas DM. So please get in touch and we’ll help make sure it’s a triumph not a turkey. The mince pies are on us.