Where Have All the Glowers Gone? Anger for Fundraisers 101
Why? Was it donor/compassion/anger fatigue? Maybe. But unfortunately, in these cases, the fatigue was more in the writers than the reader.
It was really sad. Those copywriters said all the right things and followed all the right formulas. But, compared to the one appeal I did respond to that week, the writing was just not quite … there.
The message used plenty of angry words, but where was the fury behind them? What was missing? Where was the real motivation to give? That sense of hollowness, in turn, brought to mind that quote by Robert Frost, "No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader."
One of the most challenging parts of copywriting is that, to be truly effective, you have to be a bona fide advocate for your client or organization. That means, as Frost points out, you have to genuinely feel what you want your readers to feel.
Rage can be an overpowering emotion. And if you're raising funds for an organization that does advocacy, a social services group focused on inequality, or an animal rights group fighting abuse and abandonment, you absolutely must be able to inspire that feeling of overwhelming anger if you want donors to do more than pass along your message to like-minded people. If you want to put that expression of glowering rage on their faces, the one that compels them to donate to the cause, you need to have it on yours as you write.
Fast-paced, multimedia communications encourage people to be a mile wide and an inch deep. We care deeply about a lot of important things, but the feeling is transitory. We share our righteous indignation on a few social media, feel good about ourselves for a moment and move on. We feel we've done our part.
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.