2 Fundamentals of a Strong Fundraising Appeal

in Copywriting - Nonprofit,Direct Mail,Fundraising

Strong fundraising copy is the culmination of many factors.  Today I’ll touch on two that can have a profound impact on the success of your fundraising appeal. 

1) White Space

In fundraising appeals (direct mail, email, or even on your website), white space allows your reader to relax and read your copy more easily.

In fact, studies reveal white space is often a subconscious decision-maker on whether it’s read at all!

Your readers have spent a long, busy day at work.  When they read their personal mail in the evening they really do NOT want to read more business letters.  Or they’re swamped and don’t have the time or energy to read an email with large blocks of copy.

Keep it light and airy.  Keep paragraphs short – maximum of 7 lines.  But mix it up.  Have some one-liners; some 2 or 3 sentences long; and a few longer ones.  Personally, most of the time I shoot for a maximum of 5 lines in print and 3 (maybe 4) online.

Break it up with Sub-Heads

An occasional sub-head in the midst of your paragraphs also adds space.  Plus readers are naturally drawn in by them.  They help readers skim and stay engaged.

2) Style

I hinted at this already when I said readers don’t want your letter to remind them of the office. 

The tone and style need to be warm, friendly, personal, and narrative.  It’s possible to write about even the most serious or alarming issues in this style and tone. 

Also use short sentences and target words mostly of 1 or 2 syllables.  Feel free to use contractions. 

All this effects how easy it is to read the appeal.  And it’s also okay to slip in a sentence fragment here and there. 

Finally, forget perfect grammar.  It only costs you money (i.e., you get fewer and smaller donations with perfect, stilted writing).

Try this approach: Just picture a single person.  Give him or her a name, personality, occupation, home town, and so on.  Then sit down and write them a letter while “looking” at her picture on your desk.  Heck; cut out a photo of someone from a magazine if it helps you.  Remember that she’s your personal friend and you need her help.

If that approach eludes you then try this:  Begin by sitting down with someone outside of your organization.  Share a Coke, and have a friendly conversation. 

Talk to her about the issue – the one you’re writing about in your letter – while a recorder is running.  And pay attention to her questions.  Her questions and your answers will most likely help your copy stay donor centered and have a warm style.

Your first draft is then a verbatim transcript of your recorded conversation – including contractions.  Try it.  I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

WRAP UP:  More of your fundraising letters, emails, and appeals will get read if they’re EASY to read.  Using plenty of white space and a more casual writing style are two fundamental elements of a readable letter.

What’s even more important is that – everything else being equal – response will improve.  Remove the obstacles and make it easy for supporters to read and respond to your fundraising appeals.