Tips for Successful Fundraising Messaging
Your writing should be so simple even a 6th grader can understand it.
As you are organizing your fundraising campaign, you’re going to need a communications plan. The more detailed the communications plan, the better.
And as you start to compose your written pieces of communication to donors, you’re going to start to feel certain impulses. Impulses like the desire to sound smart. Erudite. Scholarly.
You may feel the urge to write in long sentences that convey the sophistication and intricacies of your organization.
You may even want to reuse parts of your mission statement. After all, you put a serious amount of time and effort into carefully crafting your mission statement – you may as well use it in your case for giving.
But the goal of a fundraising campaign is not to sound smart. The goal is to raise money. If you want to turn your email readers into donors, your message has to be simple.
Don’t make people think too much. Don’t make them burn calories trying to understand your message.
Long, flowery sentences are not your friend. Short, simple, clear sentences will do a much better job at keeping readers’ attention.
One of my favorite hacks is to run text through a grade checker. (We recommend hemingwaypp.com, but any online grade checker will get the job done.)
Whether we’re sending out a company newsletter. Or composing a message on behalf of a client like you. Or even writing this very blog. We always want to send communications written at a 6th-grade level.
We’ll ignore grammar rules for the sake of simplicity. Just look at the previous paragraph. We broke up sentences by using fragments.
Your AP English teacher wouldn’t be happy, but she would be proud that you raised more money.
People are often worried that broken grammar rules and simple prose will reflect poorly on the organization. But, simply put, it doesn’t. Their worry is misplaced.
People often tell us that their donor base is affluent and educated. People tell us that their donor base may even be offended by simplified writing.
To them, we say that if your audience is as educated as you say they are, they are likely busy, too. They likely don’t have time to read a sentence twice because they didn’t understand it the first time. They want you to be as clear as humanly possible.
Once you begin to write more simply, you may intuit that your copy should be short, too. But, once again, it’s important to look at the research to make data-informed decisions.
The Case for Long Copy
The data, in this case, tell us that longer copy converts at a higher rate than shorter copy. This is true on the campaign page and in emails to all segments (but we’re not sure about text messages quite yet).
As long as your clearly articulating your organization’s value proposition… as long as you are focusing on a donor’s impact… as long as you shower your donors with love and gratitude, your message can be long.
Readers may not read every word, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’ll raise more money by implementing best practices developed after years of research.
Small changes in the way you communicate can make a BIG impact. It all adds up to money.