What’s Your CTA?

Pop quiz! What does CTA stand for?

A. Charitable Trust Annuity

B. Chicago Transit Authority

C. Call To Action

Okay, trick question. C is the real answer. But if you picked B, you get special We-Love-Chicago bonus points. (The band and the city.)

If you’ve ever been in the windy city during any month other than June or September, you know that waiting for a CTA bus is not a pleasant experience. My husband went to undergrad in Chicago and remembers many miserable mornings huddled inside the tempered glass partition waiting for the bus. One rainy day, he noticed one of the regulars was missing. A car slowed down in front of the bus stop and honked. The group looked up. It was their fellow (former) CTA rider behind the wheel. As the car merged into morning rush hour on LaSalle Ave, the vanity license plate sent its message loud and clear: NoMoCTA.

My message is the exact opposite. Always a CTA.

Any time you send a mailing, take a few minutes ahead of time to think about this important question: What do I want the reader to do?

That’s your CTA. Your call to action. Make it simple, make it clear, and repeat it multiple times throughout the letter.

Your CTA might sound something like this: Please don’t set this aside and forget about it. Send in your gift using the enclosed envelope no later than July 1st.

Or this: I’d love to know what you think. Please fill out the enclosed survey and send it back to me.

Your CTA is the only thing that matters. If your readers take the desire action step, who cares if they actually read your letter? (Most of them won’t!)

People are busy and distracted. So don’t make them work too hard to figure out what it is they’re supposed to do. Don’t make them read the whole letter. Don’t make them squint at the 10-point font on your reply device. Make your CTA simple, make it clear, and repeat it multiple times.

This article originally appeared as my Editor’s Note in GIVING TOMORROW magazine.