Sure you do! Good News! We have 4 Winning Writing Strategies For You Now!
As Development Directors, we all know that one of the most important parts of every fundraising campaign is writing. As fundraisers, we write, write, write! We write appeal letters, thank you letters, email campaigns, website copy, and more! And many of us don’t feel totally comfortable with our writing skills or feel we can deliver a winner time and time again. And even those who do love to write can get hit with a case of writer’s block at the worst time.
Fortunately, Vanessa Chase Lockshin has shared four writing techniques to help you consistently write copy and content that can help you raise money. She says that writing is a skill that can be learned and that writing for fundraising is more of a science than art. Using these four techniques can help you overcome your writing anxiety, master your written appeals, and beat that writer’s block when it pops up.
Strategy #1 – Know your audience
This may seem obvious, but before you can write anything, you need to know who you are writing to. Rather than focusing on what it is that you have to say, think first of the people who will be reading it. Then structure your information and format for your audience. You should be building everything you do around your donors.
How do you get to know them and how do you use that information?
To get to know your donors, you should research them and create an audience profile. An audience profile is a summary of the typical person in your donor audience. This should capture the majority of your audience. Having this information will help you know who you are writing to so you can focus on their connection, their motivation, and what they care about in your copy and content.
Researching your audience
Ask yourself what you currently know? Then consider if these are facts or assumptions. Then make a list of what else is it that you would like to know.
To get answers to these questions, survey your donors, host focus groups, or just pick up the phone and call them. You can even ask them questions in your thank you calls and keep track of their answers in a simple Word document.
Tips for conducting a survey
- First, make sure you have a clear objective.
- Aim for 5-10 questions.
- Ask a mix of demographic and psychographic questions.
- Question examples:
- Why do you give? Make this one open ended!
- What do you like most about our work?
- What are your communication preferences?
Strategy #2 – Use your audience’s words
You want to write something that resonates with your audience. When you use people’s language they can see themselves in your organization and feel connected.
A great way to find this language is to go back to your surveys and read the answers to your open-ended questions. Look for recurring words and phrases. Make a list of these that you can go back to when you are writing. You can also go online and read what your supporters are saying about you in reviews or social media.
Never stop learning about your audience. Even when you aren’t doing a formal survey, make sure you are listening to your supporters all the time. Keep adding to your list of those common words and phrases and your appeals will practically write themselves!
Strategy #3 – Urgency + Ease = Magic
In addition to your meaningful stories, your caring personalization, combined with your well-planned call to action, Urgency and Ease are the components that will bring everything together, making the magic that will result in your donors taking action now.
If you do not provide a sense of urgency, no one will act on your appeal. You are responsible for giving your readers a reason to give today instead of five years from now.
How to express urgency
Urgency can be weaved throughout an appeal, not just in the call to action.
• Talk about why this is a problem we have to solve now.
• Give your readers a deadline. For example “Make your donation by December 1st for recognition in our annual report,” or, “To accomplish this goal, we need to raise $10,000 by December 31st!”
• Tell your donors what is at stake if they do not make a donation. How will their donation help right now?
• As always, talk to just one person: your donor. Use “you” as often as possible.
• PS’s are a great place to paraphrase what you already said and add in urgency.
Ease is Ease! Don’t overcomplicate! You should be writing for a 6th grade reading level. This is not suggesting that your readers are not intelligent. Keep in mind, research shows that people’s comprehension along with their attention drops off after a certain age. You don’t want your donors getting confused, frustrated, or, even worse, bored! And bored happens fast nowdays!
Tips for achieving ease
• Use short words and short sentences and short paragraphs.
• You want your copy to be easy to skim, digest and understand.
• Write like you talk.
• If you have a hard time capturing a natural tone in your writing, try to record what you want to say. Simply say it aloud into a voice recorder and then transcribe it.
• Keep a sense of ease in your design as well. Less is more in your letter and email.
Strategy #4 – Tools to overcome writer’s block
Writer’s block happens to everyone from world famous novelists to beginner writers. Whether you are feeling uninspired, can’t find the right words to express what you want to say, or just have no idea where to begin, here are some tips to help you get out of your funk.
Talk it out
Try talking it out. Say what you are trying to write aloud either with a voice recorder or to a friend. Talking through your campaign, mission, or recent stories might spark the breakthrough you’ve been waiting for.
Change your environment
Is your office loud and distracting or just dull and monotonous? Test drive another room or try to work offsite if you can. Sometimes just a simple trip down the hall will get you out of your rut.
Fill up your inspiration cup! See what other fundraisers are doing. Subscribe to other non-profit’s newsletters. Check out other websites. Taking a peek at another appeal is a great way to inspire your own.
Try composing a letter to a friend or writing a journal. Writing about anything at all can help you get into a writing mode. Make a habit of writing as often as possible to keep those writer juices flowing! You can do this!!