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June 26, 2022
Fundraising Pro Offers Primer on Effective Fundraising Writing
Book - Fundraisers Guide
Despite the growing popularity of YouTube, Pinterest, and other visually oriented media, the written word remains key to successful nonprofit fundraising, and those to whom writing does not flow easily should put The Fundraiser’s Guide to Irresistible Communications on their must-read list.

Authored by Jeff Brooks, a creative director and copywriter serving the nonprofit community for more than two decades, The Fundraiser’s Guide provides step-by-step guidance on how to create good copy ”“ copy that will convert potential donors into actual donors.

What makes Brooks’ advice especially worth heeding is that it is based on a body of knowledge and tested principles that have transformed the fundraising field into the profession it is today. A few examples:
  • Make copy easy to read. Use short words and short sentences.
  • Long messages work better. A longer letter has more entry points to engage the reader.
  • Keep your message informal and natural sounding. Colloquial language works.
  • Break the rules. Paragraphs don’t have to contain one complete idea. Sentence fragments are permissible. Starting sentences with conjunctions is OK.
Perhaps most importantly, fundraisers need to tell stories, because, Brooks writes, “Stories move us to action.”

Stories enable readers to share a vivid experience and help donors understand how they can help solve a problem. As Brooks notes: “Donors don’t want to solve a problem because it’s big. They want to solve it because it’s solvable.” And the best stories are those that make the donor the hero.

Stories also work because they offer concrete action, which is why Brooks says to stay away from concepts. For example, helping to create and expand civil society is a worthy goal, but donors more quickly grasp the idea of feeding hungry children.

What contributes to the book’s value is that Brooks not only advises on what makes for effective fundraising communications, but also what to avoid. For example, laying out the facts as journalists do—telling the who, what, where, when, how of a problem—doesn’t work because it doesn’t tell donors what action to take.

Similarly, hinting around instead of directly asking for support is a common mistake. Writing “Your support could bring hope to some special kids” is vague, since, Brooks notes, special kids could be anyone on the planet under age 18. Instead, write, “Your gift of $25 or more—sent by December 31—will give low-income kids in our community soccer uniforms, so they can complete joyfully in this character-building sport.”

Brooks shows why nonprofit fundraising is a noble effort. Giving to a charitable cause makes donors care more about it. Giving creates happiness and better health, e.g., donor are 43% more likely to say they’re “very happy” than non-donors and 25% more likely than non-donors to say their health is “excellent” or “very good.” Fundraisers enable donors to do well, for themselves and the causes they believe in, and in doing so create a better world. Effective writing helps them get there.

The Fundraiser’s Guide to Irresistible Communications is available from Emerson & Church, Publishers.

Reviewed by Peter Lowy

October 2012
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