Microsoft Word: The Fundraiser’s Frienemy
We copywriters have powerful tools at our disposal. Microsoft Word probably leads the pack. It makes our jobs faster and easier. But in today's business-centric world, Word has evolved into an implement for corporate use. As writers who specialize in fundraising, this presents a challenge.
Fundraising is not exactly a business, but fundraising organizations are increasingly structuring themselves according to business models. This is good because operating in a businesslike way can boost efficiency and profitability.
But it's also dicey, because donors and prospects don't think of nonprofits as businesses and don't want to. They see the causes they support as being above crass commercialism.
The job of the fundraising copywriters is to persuade people to send in money in return for nothing but a good feeling. Positive self-worth, moral satisfaction, the sense that one is part of an ethical elite — the "caring few" — these are the products we sell, and they are intangibles.
Our writing needs to reflect warmth, personality, passion and humanity. Word is generally set up for formal, impersonal, business communication.
When you open a new Word document to start writing, here's what you see: Your document is preset with a simple, clean sans-serif font like Arial or Calibri. It's preformatted with left-justified paragraphs, and 1.5 spaces between lines.
For fundraising copy, these "helpful" decisions that have been made for you are wrong, wrong, and wrong.
1. Sans-serif fonts look great for design, but they are harder to read in long blocks of text. There's a good reason that novels, newspapers and major publications still use Times, Garamond, Georgia, etc. And why more fundraisers than you might think still even use Courier.
Those little wings and curlicues on the tips of letters make the readers' job easier. Readers can intuit more words at a glance and get your meaning more easily. That matters because fundraising letters are rarely read with much care or attention.
Willis believes in expressive writing, exceptional fundraising, and exuberant living.
Willis Turner is the senior copywriter at Huntsinger & Jeffer. He was an experienced writer and creative director in the traditional advertising world for more than 20 years before making the switch to fundraising nearly 15 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, as well as collateral materials and communications, that get attention, tell emotional stories, and persuade people to take action or make a donation.