The Ins and Outs of Writing Profiles
Compelling profiles — of constituents, volunteers or donors — are powerful tools that a nonprofit can use to motivate donors and other supporters by illuminating its mission, demonstrating success and providing public recognition.
Unfortunately, a lot of these profiles — which appear in newsletters, on Web sites, and in PR/marketing materials and annual reports, among other places — are just boring and fall victim to what Kivi Leroux Miller calls the "tedious bio syndrome."
Leroux Miller is president of EcoScribe Communications and keeper of the Nonprofit Marketing Guide Web site and the Nonprofit Communications Blog. In her early June webinar, "How to Write Moving Personal Profiles About Clients, Donors and Other Supporters," she recommended steps organizations can take to create powerful profiles that go to work for their causes.
A good profile is a story that has a beginning, middle and end; it’s focused on the most interesting elements about the person being profiled; and it's relevant, i.e., the reader understands why you’re telling him about this person in your communications and gets the point of the story.
When selecting people to profile, ask yourself the following questions:
- Why this person?
- Why now?
- What's the point from a marketing perspective? What are you trying to achieve by telling this story about this person?
Remember, a profile by your organization is not “journalism.” In an ideal world, a journalistic approach to profile writing involves interviews with several people, shadowing and research. The nonprofit reality is more like a 20-minute phone call or sending questions via e-mail. You don't need to be objective, so some leading questions are fine, and the subject should be able to review a draft and provide comments.
Miller recommended the following five steps to the profile process:
1. Schedule the interview
Decide who to profile. Will it be in person, via phone or via e-mail? Then convince the sometimes reluctant participant. Offer her the ability to review the story. Tell her that by sharing her story you'll be able to let people know how to access your services and support your organization.