Experienced copywriters say things like this all the time:
“The best fundraising sounds like it’s from one person to one person.”
But how do you write fundraising and make it sound like you’re talking to one person?
Here’s how. The following are the ideas I have in my head as I create fundraising materials. One or all of them should help you!
Have One Person in Mind
Most of your donors will have several common traits. You can create a fictional person, imbue them with the traits your donors have, and write your letters/emails/newsletters to that person.
At my first fundraising job, there was a cardboard cutout of an older woman right inside the front door. We were instructed to write all our letters to her.
The fancy marketing word for this is “persona.” Large nonprofits with lots of donors have multiple personas; personas for online donors, personas for major donors, personas for event participants, etc.
The point is the same: visualize who you are writing to and then write to that one person.
Watch Your Plurals
If you’re writing to one person, you don’t use the plural to refer to him or her.
So don’t use plurals like these in your fundraising writing:
- “Dear Friends,”
- “All of your gifts…” (which doesn’t make sense for a donor who has only given one gift)
- “Thank you to everyone who…”
What you want to watch out for is anything that makes the reader think, “Oh, I thought this thing I’m reading was to me, but it turns out it’s to everybody.”
Use the Donor’s Name
Merge in the donor’s name. It’s commonplace to merge the donor’s name in the salutation, and it’s a pro move to merge their name in the letter itself.
For instance, if there’s a paragraph I particularly want the donor to read, I often use the donor’s name as the first word in a paragraph.
People are trained from birth to pay attention to what’s said immediately after their name. Use that to your advantage!
Use the Word ‘You’
This is the obvious one. Second only to a person’s name, the word “you” gets people’s attention.
But there’s another reason “you” is so helpful: it transforms a truth about your organization into a personal truth for the donor.
You can FEEL the emotional difference between, “A gift to our organization will fight cancer” and, “your gift will fight cancer.”
I have a general rule of thumb for when I edit fundraising: whenever I see the organization’s name, I try to delete it and replace it with the word “you.” It’s not the right thing to do in all cases, but it’s the right thing to do in most cases.
Use the Language a Donor Would Use
Have you ever been in a conversation with someone who has a stellar vocabulary and kind of shows it off? Or talked to a person who’s an expert in their field and is constantly using jargon and you’re not quite sure what it means?
What’s the result when people like that talk to you? It makes you feel like the person isn’t really talking to you. It makes you feel like they are kind of talking to themselves and people “just like them.”
By using language that insiders value and appreciate, a lot of nonprofits accidentally make their donors feel like outsiders.
But using language that a donor would use crosses the gap to donors, instead of widening the gap.
Think of It This Way
Donors are looking for organizations that make it easy for them to understand what’s going on in the world and how their gift will help.
If you follow these rules, you’ll create fundraising that makes each of your donors think, “Hey, this organization is writing to me.” She’s more likely to feel known, and you’ll make it easy for her to understand what you’re writing about.
And you’ll notice that your fundraising results will tick up meaningfully.