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How to be a better fundraising copywriter by breaking rules.

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How to be a better fundraising copywriter by breaking rules.

February 24, 2022

Writing successful fundraising copy means doing things a little differently.

The goal of all copywriting is to inspire interest and curiosity. If you’re working in fundraising, this is essential.

Not only are you competing with other causes, you’re also up against anything else a donor could spend their disposable income on – a new pair of shoes or a new car, for example.

Fundraising copywriting turns words into money

To succeed in fundraising, you need to grab your readers’ attention with enough force and feeling that they feel compelled to donate.

You need to break through every distraction and every reason they could choose not to support you. If you choose to work with a fundraising copywriter to achieve this, you’ll find out that they may do things a little differently.

We use some unique tactics and break many of the “copywriting rules” followed by our marketing peers. The golden rules of good copywriting.

The golden rules of good copywriting

  1. “Be concise“

    This is great advice for copywriters. Unless you’re in fundraising, where there’s a consensus that long copy is almost always more effective.

    We often ask our clients to increase the length of their appeal letters and donor communications, such as brochures or annual reviews. When you write to a supporter, you’re taking them on a journey via a heart-warming and compelling narrative. If you can do this in two pages that’s great, but my guess is you’ll need more.

    Long copy also gives the perception that the content is important and worthy of their time and interest.

  2. “Avoid repetition“

    The goal of any good writer is to be precise. If that’s the case, why are fundraisers always repeating themselves?

    In fundraising copy, you’ll see the same question asked over and over again, along with repetition of the donor’s name.

    The intense personalisation and repetition can look a little crazy if you’ve not seen this purposeful tactic before. It’s not something that is done much outside our sector, but it’s a fundraising convention used to ensure the donor remains at the heart of the message.

  3. “Use correct grammar at all times“

    You’d be forgiven for thinking that fundraising copywriters don’t understand basic grammar. We probably use it in a way that would shock any English teacher! But this is not a literature class. Sentence fragments are allowed to be sloppy. Transitions abrupt. And we start some sentences with a conjunction – and use clichés like there’s no tomorrow!

  4. “Don’t use informal language“

    Despite this age-old convention, the use of colloquialisms and slang is becoming more commonplace in various forms of advertising. (To the degradation or betterment of copywriting, depending on your perspective!) The important role of social media in campaigning has accelerated this trend. But fundraising copywriters are more likely to be conversational across a variety of channels, as opposed to reserving a casual tone for social media. Remember that your donors are real people and your communications need to speak directly to them. Formal language rarely stirs the emotions or inspires people to take urgent action.

  5. “Be a rule breaker“

    While some of this advice may seem counterintuitive, many of the most successful fundraising conventions have been shaped by breaking rules.

    The most important thing is to remember that each communication should help your donor understand more about what you do and why it’s important. You need to evolve the relationship each time and take them further along the donor journey. Don’t be afraid to break a few rules to make that journey more exciting.


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