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July 23, 2015
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August 5, 2015

7 Tips for Writing Effective Fundraising Copy

IMG_0897This week, I am in the wilds of western Wales. I’ve rented a cabin in Cenarth, Pembrokeshire so that I can concentrate on some writing projects. (I’m also getting some fun hiking in with my dog, Reggie – see adorable photo from today).

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of fundraising writing for our clients. And I’ve been reminded that whether you are writing a capital campaign case statement or a direct mail appeal, all writing for donors requires a certain balance of creativity and discipline.

Creativity is needed to use words that intrigue and inspire. Discipline is needed to stay super focused on your audience and your objectives.

Maybe there is a grant you need to write or an appeal coming up. Or maybe there’s a donor newsletter to get out. I know it can be hard to get started, so whatever you are working on, try these seven tips to help you to get going:

  1. Know your audience: When I get stuck it’s mostly because I’m not clear on my audience. I don’t know who I’m talking to or what they really care about. Once I have a clear picture of the kind of person I am writing for, the story unfolds.
  2. Be clear on your objectives: Likewise, you have to know who you are trying to get to do what. Fundraising copy has to have a call to action. Whether it be to make a $1 million capital gift or a $100 online gift.
  3. Start at the beginning: Sometimes I actually write the words “once upon a time” to get me going. Humans have been programmed for centuries to communicate by storytelling. Make sure your piece has that element included.
  4. Spit it all out first: My first draft is a mess. I just literally write a stream of consciousness (usually in story form) and then I go and clean it all up. This helps me just get something down “on paper” and it also helps me to speak as plainly – and easy-to-understand – as possible.
  5. Read it out loud: The thing is that the best copy sounds like you’re talking right to an individual. Like you’ve just written them a personal note. Or if you’re working with a foundations officer, like you’ve given them a personal presentation. So to help get that right tone, I read all my copy out loud. It helps with proofing, too!
  6. Cleanse it for jargon and acronyms: This is a really obsession of mine. I come from the environmental movement which is awash in acronyms and jargon and I know from first hand experience that these things can be a gift killer.
  7. Look for inspiration: If you need a story or some inspiring words to tell it, go ask someone on the front lines of your organization. Whether your front lines are a soup kitchen or a medical lab, the people at the core of your mission will have something amazing to say.

If you’re feeling a bit lost or you’re new at fundraising writing, there are some great resources out there for you. I often thumb through Tom Ahern’s How to Write Fundraising Materials that Raise More Money or Jeff Brooks’ The Fundraiser’s Guide to Irresistible Communications to get some ideas and confidence.

Got any tips of your own to share? I’d love to hear them. (And I just may need them this week!)

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