Speaking of Fundraising: Copywriting for the Post-Recession
Think of creative as your fundraising portfolio. In tough times, you shift your investments to more conservative stocks to make sure you don't lose too much. When the economy is stronger, you diversify and extend your risk in the hope of increasing your reward.
4. Test what works. Necessity might be the mother of invention, but confidence is the mother of innovation. Breakthrough packages don't come from timidly following what has always worked. In one of the hundreds of how-to-survive-the-recession presentations I listened to over the past year, I heard a direct-mail guru say that creativity equals risk. Maybe so. But remember that risk equals reward.
Taking risks is hard at any time, but coming out of a recession, it feels even scarier. That's why you need to be prepared for rule number …
5. Be uncomfortable. You're probably thinking, "But I've been uncomfortable for the last 18 months!" I know you have, but again, in an economic turnaround confidence is everything. If you want to get a jump on the good times, you have to believe in the recovery before everyone else does. That means stepping outside your comfort zone, before the "experts" tell the rest of the pack that it's safe. As Bob Dylan says, where the herd has gone, the fruit has already been eaten.
And speaking of Dylan, when you want to say new things to your donors in a powerful way …
6. Become a poet. William Faulkner said novelists are failed short-story writers, and short-story writers are failed poets. In other words, great writing is about saying as much as possible, as emotionally as possible, in as few words as possible.
This can be surprisingly tough sometimes. Program stakeholders can insist that you simply have to mention their special issues. CEOs often feel it's imperative to give donors a complete picture of the organization or spell out your mission in specific detail. This isn't necessarily a bad thing in principle. But if you want to make people emotional enough to give you money, you have to know when to talk and when to shut up.
Willis Turner believes great writing has the power to change minds, save lives, and make people want to dance and sing. Willis is the creative director at Huntsinger & Jeffer. He worked as a lead writer and creative director in the traditional advertising world for more than 15 years before making the switch to fundraising 20 years ago. In his work with nonprofit organizations and associations, he has written thousands of appeals, renewals and acquisition communications for every medium. He creates direct-response campaigns, and collateral communications materials that get attention, tell powerful stories and persuade people to take action or make a donation.