Easier Said Than Done: 25 Tips for Better Fundraising Copy
1. Write the call to action before you do anything else. It's very un-Zen to say it, but fundraising is more about the destination than the journey. You're going to arrive a lot more successfully when you know exactly where you're going.
2. Think of 25 reasons why a donor should give to you. Then, get rid of all the reasons that are about you and not the donor.
3. Ask, "How would The National Enquirer write this?" The Enquirer knows the value of the amazing, the lurid, the outrageous, the unexpected — and it milks it. Are you doing that, or are you imitating "respectable" journalism, purposely keeping it as colorless and purely factual as possible? Guess which approach gets more readership — and raises more funds.
4. Ignore your brand guidelines. Your brand guidelines are meant to sharpen and define your message and make it consistent. But there's a fatal flaw: The guidelines are all about you, not about your donors. They're all about self-?focused communication, and that will hurt your fundraising. How can I say that, never having seen your brand guidelines? I've read a lot of nonprofit brand documents and not yet have seen one that's nontoxic to fundraising.
5. Show, don't tell. You've heard this in every creative-writing class you've ever taken. It's good advice. It's easy to assert that something is sad, or great, or special, or cutting-edge. It's more persuasive to give the facts that add up to those things.
6. Overdo it. Be too dramatic. Too emotional. Too strong. Eight times out of 10, you'll realize later that you didn't overdo it at all. The other two times — well, it's a lot easier to tone it down than it is to pump up weak and underdone copy.
7. Use your data. You know quite a bit about the people you're writing to — their names, their cities, what and when they've given, and more. Use these facts to make your copy more personal and relevant. Just make sure you don't sound awkward and robotic.