Good writing is hard to do; strong nonprofit writing is harder still. What are the best ways to make your message understandable and accessible to the people you want to reach? Clear, simple nonprofit writing can be done with a little guidance.
We are all deluged by email, junk mail, spam, advertisements, solicitations, announcements, ad nauseum; we have all seen, and quickly discarded, stuff that doesn’t catch our attention right off the bat. When writing to ask for something, especially money, how well written the letter or email is can determine whether it is read or deleted instantly. The delete button is a vicious editor for poor writing, don’t let yours face this fate!
What can you do to prevent that happening to the important mail you are sending out?
Below are 7 simple steps that will help you write more comfortably for you and your readers.
Start by asking yourself the following questions:
1/ Who are you writing to, who is your audience?
Be specific, not just ‘people who care about dogs’; rather, adults in the Minneapolis area who are dog owners and dog lovers who could be interested in supporting the work of a dog rescue.
You can customize the letters, do not use a one size fits all, buckshot approach. You don’t like to receive letters like this (nor do your donors); as you being to sort and segregate your donor data, you can group like individuals together. Use language and concepts that are applicable to each group to plan to address. This uses the idea of donor personas, the description of the individual who personifies that group.
2/ Why would these people want to hear from you?
Why are these people on your list? When they see the ‘from’ section of the email or on the envelope why would they want to open your message? Is there a previous relationship, a connection to your work, your staff or volunteers? Did someone they know suggest you contact them or are they a prospect?
3/ Why are you writing to them? What is it you want?
Exercise: finish this sentence: “ I am writing to you today because…..”
Be clear and direct, don’t make anyone have to guess or hunt around for your point.
4/ Keep it simple: less is more.
Keep your subject to one idea, use a single voice, and speak to a single reader.
Be clear on what you are about, who you are and what you want. Don’t tell lots of stories, add elements to other related issues, stick to one idea. Be clear on the one message you want the reader to remember, then be sure to use language that will allow that to happen.
This is not a committee effort- it is always good to ask select people to review, make suggestions, edit and proof read- ask thoughtfully for that kind of input, for sure. But remember this is a lot less about what you have to say than what the reader takes away from it.
5/ Watch your language–
Check your word choice and sentence structure, does it contain jargon or technical terms, is the sentence structure too formal and sounds stiff? Would you want to read this?
As you write, have a conversation with your reader, as if you were sitting across from each other. Choose words we all use everyday, shorter sentences and comfortable paragraphs. Simple is good, even complex ideas can be described in words we all understand.
Many research applications are required to submit 2 briefs for the work they propose: the first is the technical abstract, with all the technical terms and buzzwords included; the second one is to share the exact same information, but as if you had to explain it to your grandma or a child.
6/ Is your first sentence boring?
If so, forget getting eyeballs on the rest of the piece. Your first sentence must grab the reader and make want them to know more. If it’s tedious, too descriptive or wandering, no one will get to the important point you want to make.
Make it intriguing, interesting, mysterious.
What is it that makes a first sentence memorable? It is the hint of something more. It’s the suggestion that builds anticipation for not just the next sentence, but perhaps the next chapter as well.
7/ Give it some heart.
The statistics of your problem may be staggering, but they are only numbers.
This is not a conversation about the weather ( unless you are into climate control) but about how you both, together, can change the world. That;s compelling stuff.
A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths are a statistic. Make your appeal human, show heart emotion.
Break your piece into its component pieces, apply these tips to help make your writing as attractive as possible. The result will be a stronger, more direct and succinct piece, increasing the overall number of readers.
Compelling, interesting writing is hard work; the bottom line is that it is worth the effort.
Give your message its best chances of being read by being easy to read.
Still need a little help? Call now! 310 828 6979