This week I’m looking at microstyle and the way in which small bits of copy can make a big impact. Today: making donations less boring.
The inspiration for today’s post is the new Los Angeles Review of Books, “the first major, full-service book review to launch in the 21st century, designed to exploit the latest online technologies in ways that respond to a significantly transformed publishing world.” LARB was founded in response to a serious problem:
The disappearance of the newspaper book review supplement (papers in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Des Moines, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington and elsewhere have shuttered or radically shrunk theirs) has been accompanied by an explosion of titles in the book market. The net result: twenty times as many titles are published each year than were in 1980, and we have one twentieth of the serious book reviews.
LARB intends to be “a largely self-supporting nonprofit institution” that pays “decent rates to our reviewers.” To that end, it’s inviting tax-deductible contributions. Nothing newsworthy here—except for the wording of the home-page prompt (“Help Us Build This Thing!”) and the names of the giving levels.
No “Silver,” “Gold,” and “Platinum” here. No, this online giving page is aimed squarely at its target audience, which cares deeply about books, literary criticism, and a vibrant marketplace of ideas. The giving levels, from plain old “Reader” up to “Founding Reader,” flatter your intelligence while challenging you to think not just about the size of your donation but also about the intensity of your commitment.
I attempted something similar when I worked with Children’s Fairyland, the oldest storybook theme park in the United States, on the language of a new adopt-an-animal campaign. Instead of leaving the donation field open-ended or simply suggesting dollar amounts, I created playful yet appropriate giving levels that suggested “helping our animals”: Companion, Best Friend, Caretaker, Keeper, and Guardian.
It’s easy to default to dollar increments when you create a donation form. But attaching meaningful, relevant names to giving categories transforms the act of contributing into something greater than writing a check or authorizing a funds transfer: it becomes an act of identification with a cause.