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Fundraising mindset hack: Think bigger β€” write smaller β€” revise better

Published 8 months agoΒ β€’Β 6 min read

Life: where the big and small things come together... Welcome to the 96th issue of the Fundraising Writing Newsletter. Here's hoping all the things are coming together for you. Want to share? That'd be great! (Your peeps can ​subscribe here for free.)​

In this issue:

  • Fundraising mindset hack: Think bigger β€” write smaller β€” revise better
  • Randomly yours: to inspire and recharge you

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Hi Reader,

Brett here:

Whew, what a week for us Coopers!

It felt like all the things ... but it was mainly 3 big things:

  1. It's my 52nd birthday today (as I write this on 6/26).
    ​
  2. Julie and I marked our anniversary on Saturday.
    ​
  3. We celebrated at our best friend's wedding, 29 years to the day after ours.

As best man, I gave a speech. I took notes periodically over the past year and spent the last few weeks drafting and the final week polishing.

In the process, I learned / relearned a few things I want to share with you...


Fundraising mindset hack: Think bigger β€” write smaller β€” revise better

Writing a best man speech, it turns out, is in some ways like writing donor comms. It's important that you:

  1. Think bigger
  2. Write smaller
  3. Revise better

Thinking bigger = considering what points you want to make and then generalizing them as much as possible, so that the story you are telling includes universal concepts relevant to most if not all readers.

Writing smaller = choosing interesting details to bring to life β€” with humanity and emotion β€” the people and events, often including the problem, the stakes, and the transformation.

Revising better = reading repeatedly and asking yourself, "What could be confusing?" and "What details are missing?" and "What strikes the wrong tone?" and "What connections between the ideas already written could be accentuated?"

One simple way to force yourself to do this is to write a draft of your donor comms piece, then ask ChatGPT (or similar AI) to analyze it so you can use its free, nearly instant feedback as a mirror in which to better see your writing's strengths and weaknesses.

(For more on using AI in your fundraising without compromising heart, humanity, or quality, see: You are the fundraising chef, and AI can be your sous chef.)

This is the approach I took for my best man speech. I used the prompt: "Analyze the following best man speech I wrote for my best friend's upcoming wedding." (And I pasted the text of my speech immediately after.)

Below is how ChatGPT responded. You may just want to skim this section to get an idea of the sort of feedback you'll likely receive if you copy and paste one of your donor comms drafts with a variation of the above prompt into an AI like ChatGPT:

This is an enjoyable and memorable best man speech overall. It has an engaging story, a good structure, humor, and emotion. Here are some highlights and a few suggestions on how you can improve it:
​
1. Introduction: The introduction is great, it's friendly, and sets the tone. However, you could make it a little clearer about your relationship with Kelly.
​
2. Shared Passions: It's nice to talk about shared passions, but make sure it's also relevant to the audience and, most importantly, the couple. The mention of "The Well" adds a nice personal touch.
​
3. Tragic Flaw: This is a great element of surprise and intrigue, and it's played out well throughout the speech. The end where you reveal the "flaw" is very sweet and heartwarming.
​
4. Three Positive Qualities: Nicely done, it's always good to highlight the bride's strengths.
​
5. Music Preferences: This is fun and personalized, but it may be a bit too detailed or specific for those not privy to these memories. Try to ensure that your anecdotes are inclusive, so the majority of the audience can understand and enjoy them.
​
6. Relationship with Jen: This part is wonderful, the metaphor of yin and yang and the namaste analogy make it very emotional and engaging.
​
7. Final Part and Toast: The conclusion is superb, especially bringing back "The Well". It makes the speech feel full-circle. The call to action is also very good, leading to the toast.
​
Suggestions:
​
1. Audience Engagement: Try to engage more with the audience. This can be done by addressing them directly or sharing more inclusive anecdotes.
​
2. Talk About Both Brides: While your relationship is with Kelly, it's important to say a bit more about Jen, as it's her special day too. Try to share some stories or traits you've observed that make them great together.
​
3. Balance Humor with Emotion: There's a good balance of humor and emotion, but make sure you don't use humor in places that might disrupt the emotional flow of the speech.
​
4. Duration: Ensure that your speech is not too long. Aim for a length of about five to seven minutes. Too much longer can lead to the audience losing interest.
Remember, practice makes perfect. Try to rehearse your speech a few times before the wedding to ensure that you can deliver it naturally and confidently.

To get the full effect of how using AI for feedback can remind you to make good changes so that you think bigger, write smaller, and revise better, you may wish to review these two versions of my best man speech:

  1. ​The rough draft I asked ChatGPT to analyze
    ​
    ​
  2. ​The final draft, after I incorporated the feedback and thought bigger, wrote smaller, and revised better​

If you compare and contrast the two versions, you'll see that the final draft is improved with an expanded sense of universality (thinking bigger), a greater specificity (writing smaller) and a more polished final product (after careful revision).

But if you don't have the time or inclination to read all that, no worries. I'll illustrate briefly here with two examples...

Example #1

In the rough draft, I had written this sentence that wasn't thinking big enough:

"With all of us gathered around in an old fashioned display of love and support."

Then, based on ChatGPT's advice to "Try to engage more with the audience," which reminded me to think bigger, I revised the sentence as follows:

"With all you lovely people β€” friends and family from across the years β€” gathered around in an old fashioned display of fond devotion."

Notice that addressing the audience with "you" and adding the big concept of "across the years" makes this part more relevant to more people and therefore represents thinking bigger.

Example #2

In the rough draft, I had written this sentence that wasn't "writing small" enough:

"Jen is the perfect mirror in which Kelly finally saw herself."

Then, based on ChatGPT's advice that "it's important to say a bit more about Jen," which reminded me to write smaller, I kept the above sentence and added the following:

"Jen knows Kelly is fully awesome … because Jen is fully awesome. Jen embodies strength of all kinds. She’s selfless. She gives without reserve. She listens without judgment, even when certain beloved third wheels forget important details. You can always be yourself with Jen. That’s a precious gift."

Notice that adding character trait details is likely to help make Jen come to life for listeners who don't know her and to induce a knowing nod and a warm fuzzy smile from those in the audience who already do know her.

Your turn!

Try it out for yourself, maybe?

You don't have to use AI, of course. That's just one route you can take: a modern twist to a classic writing routine:

  • Write.
  • Rewrite.
  • Solicit feedback.
  • Think bigger.
  • Write smaller.
  • Revise.
  • Deliver.

Works for me!

It could work for you too!


Randomly yours: to inspire and recharge you

For your brain, heart, and funny bone...


Until next time: May you get all nice and cozy with the idea of thinking bigger, writing smaller, and revising better, so your donors feel the irresistible through-line of life: the big things and the small things mysteriously connecting.

All our best,

PS: Here's the latest in our weekly video series, Win It in a Minute. You can (and maybe want to?) subscribe here.

In this video, Julie, Rachel Muir, and Tom Ahern answer the question:

β€œWhat’s the preferred/best remittance mechanism for donor newsletters: envelope, QR code, other, multiple?”
video preview​

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Hi! We're Julie Cooper and Brett Cooper, fundraising copywriters for great causes. Does your fundraising bring in as much money as it could? You can send donor communications that stir hearts to action. We'd love to help. πŸ’› Start by subscribing to our FREE weekly newsletter.

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