Welcome to the 13th issue of the newsletter all about your donor communications. I'm glad you're here! In this issue, I'll share straightforward "rules" that will help you write better fundraising communications.
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Chicago, Wednesday, July 21, 2021
Last month, my oldest son completed his 4-year tour of duty in Japan with the US Marines. (Oorah!)
He's now back home and sorting out his life as a civilian — a transition that has proven to be challenging. Going from countless rules and regulations to a vast array of options can be overwhelming.
More on rules in a sec. But first, here's a picture of us. He was the best man in his friend's wedding a few weeks ago!
Thanks for indulging my happy "mom moment."😊
Back to rules...
Rules can make us feel trapped. Suffocated. Kind of like how my son might have felt, at times, in the military.
But rules can help guide us and ultimately give us the confidence to pave our own path.
Fundraising writing is a lot like that.
Knowing what has produced results for others gives us the blueprint and courage to take our fundraising to the next level. In that way, rules can be freeing!
Here are 15 writing rules (or tips) to help you get started.
15 Fundraising Writing Rules (to free you and help you raise more money!)
1. There isn’t one correct way to write fundraising materials — just as there isn’t one way to lose weight or make marinara sauce. But you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Instead, pay attention to the decades of testing and experience from fundraisers and direct marketers.
2. The kindest thing you can do for a donor is to use clear, simple language to show need and impact. Nobody will ever complain that you wrote something too easy to understand.
3. Communicate urgency in your fundraising writing. Ask yourself, “Why should a donor take action today and not 6 months from now?”
4. Effective fundraising writing shows the donor’s forthcoming impact. One reason people don’t give is they think their donations don’t matter. “Your gift will send a child to summer camp” packs more punch than “Your gift will keep our work going strong.”
5. The first couple of paragraphs in your draft likely need to be deleted. Don’t prepare your reader for what’s to come. Instead, jump right into the reason you are writing. Your fundraising will be so much more engaging.
6. Good writing happens when you become a ruthless editor of your own work. Editing isn’t just about correcting grammar mistakes. It’s about improving the clarity of your copy.
7. Sending a lovely thank you letter is more than good manners. Philanthropic Psychologist Prof. Jen Shang says that thank-you messages are the communications that donors pay the most attention to.
8. Read what you write aloud to yourself and listen closely. When you feel shifts in your attention, it’s safe to say that you’ve stumbled upon words that can be deleted or reworked.
9. Good fundraising writing has a single, clear call to action (CTA). Surprisingly, the CTA is left out of so much donor correspondence. Be obvious and ask for the gift multiple times.
10. Kick up the emotion. Fostering a deep emotional connection is a strong motivator to donate and become a champion of the cause. So start with language that draws out feelings — and back them up with logic and credibility.
11. Repetition in fundraising is essential. Repeated statements are perceived as more valid. Plus, donors aren’t reading your entire message from top to bottom. So repetition increases the likelihood of them seeing what’s most important.
12. Punctuation helps with the clarity, design, and emotion in your message …Ellipses can lead sentences. Hooray for exclamation points! Em dashes for pauses. The goal is to activate a donor to give — not get an A+ from someone with a red flair felt pen.
13. Chop paragraphs to avoid the dreaded “wall of text.” Your donors will undoubtedly skip over lengthy blocks of text. Aim for 5 or 6 lines for your longest paragraph. One-line paragraphs are fine! Just mix it up because our brains LOVE variety.
14. “Because of you” should be a recurring phrase in your donor communications. This helps show what the donor makes possible. For example, “Because of you, we're one step closer to finding a cure for lymphoma.”
15. And this gem from writer Ann Handley: "Writing well is part habit, part knowledge of some fundamental rules, and part giving a damn." 💛
If you are on my side of the world, I hope you are enjoying your summer. 🏖️ If you are not, I still hope you are slipping-n-sliding along!
, thanks for being here! I'll be back in a couple of weeks with more tiny tweaks that can make your fundraising writing more effective. And fun!
All my best,
JB Cooper LLC
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