Why the “school” solution is the “wrong” fundraising solution

in Copywriting - Nonprofit,Fundraising

Remember back in school how we were taught to write using strictly proper grammar.  The school solution involved following all the rules to the letter.

Fast forward to today.  If you use the school solution when writing your fundraising copy you’ll be wrong.  I say “wrong” because deciding to write that way is deciding to deliberately lower your response rates.  And I don’t believe such a decision is the right one for a fundraiser to make. 

Writing in a pure grammatically correct style usually results in stiff, cold copy.  Again, such a style stifles response in your fundraising web copy, emails, newsletters, and direct mail letters.  

Want to write like an Android?

Any Star Trek Next Generation fans out there?  Remember Commander Data, the android?  He always spoke in precisely correct English and in a formal style.  For example, he never used contractions.  Definitely NOT how human beings naturally speak.

Or perhaps you remember the opening phrase at the start of each Star Trek episode:  “To boldly go where no man has gone before.”

That’s grammatically incorrect because it’s a split infinitive.  It should be stated, “To go boldly where no man has gone before.”  But who talks like that?  It just doesn’t “sound” right.

And you don’t want your writing to sound like Commander Data, our friendly android.  His style is brilliantly correct but uninspiring.

Here’s another example:  “That’s something I simply won’t put up with.”

Again, grammatically incorrect because we ended the sentence with a preposition.  But would you prefer this version?  “That is something up with which I shall not put.”

I doubt it.  So what’s my point? 

Write Like You Talk

Write in a conversational style that is light and breezy, especially for acquisition. Picture yourself sitting in a comfortable easy chair.  You’re surrounded by eager children sitting in a circle on the floor around you.  And you’re reading them a story.

Write your acquisition letter, lapsed donor letter, newsletter, house file letter, or story for the web with that image in mind.  And remember, you won’t keep their attention if you’re bragging about yourself or doing it in a formal style.  And your donors won’t stay with you either – regardless of their education level.  

Focus on your donor and keep your fundraising copy light, breezy, friendly, and conversational.  This is critical in the business of nonprofit fundraising.

Leave a Comment