9 Best Practices for Successful Fundraising Communications
I don’t write copy for clients. It’s just not the most strategic use of my time. If you’re the CEO or chief development officer at a nonprofit, chances are this is true for you, too. I have yet to work with a CEO or chief development officer who is fulfilling his or her potential or responsibility in fundraising by re-writing (vs. brief edits) a document.
We have a team of writers experienced in fundraising communications, and I’ve learned to let them do their jobs.
Trusting the writing experts to do the writing is one of the key ingredients in a successful strategy for your fundraising communications. Here are some other equally important guidelines.
- Let it go. Meet your deadlines. Make it the best you can, let it go and know that it can be enhanced in another round.
- Don’t write—or edit—by committee. Identify a small group whose insight is most important and run the draft by them. Ask them strategic questions and avoid wordsmithing, which most often becomes a question of preference.
- Keep it brief. A former client recently sent us draft copy intended to update potential donors and position a campaign. The copy could easily have been cut in half. It was not consistent—some random words were capitalized, for example, apparently for effect. Have word lengths for all projects—print, web, social media, standard proposals—and adhere to them. Where they will be designed, allow for some breathing room and use of compelling images.
- Be strategic. The update example cited above was supposed to be part of a strategic cultivation and awareness plan. The plan should have been developed before the CEO personally wrote this off-the-cuff piece (with great pride of authorship, unfortunately).
- Be repetitive. When you have established messaging, use it over and over. It will take several times for most folks to capture what you’re saying.
- Make it personal. Always know and envision your audience when writing.
- Know your goal. What is the goal of the piece? Educational? To solicit advice or involvement? To secure a gift?
- Don’t use jargon. Your organization probably has its own vocabulary—professional jargon relating to the great work you do. We in the nonprofit and fundraising arenas do as well. Just remember, chances are your reader doesn’t have a clue about your jargon and has no interest in learning it.
- Know your platform. Utilizing all these best practices, be sure that the communication is tailored to the platform—a proposal, website, video, social media, brochure, letter, email, case statement, etc. These are all different and used most effectively require different approaches.
Looking for Jeff? You'll find him either on the lake, laughing with good friends, or helping nonprofits develop to their full potential.
Jeff believes that successful fundraising is built on a bedrock of relevant, consistent messaging; sound practices; the nurturing of relationships; and impeccable stewardship. And that organizations that adhere to those standards serve as beacons to others that aspire to them. The Bedrocks & Beacons blog will provide strategic information to help nonprofits be both.
Jeff has more than 25 years of nonprofit leadership experience and is a member of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.