You can write, right?

Copywriting is the art of crafting words.

Fundraising copywriting is a powerful weapon it is in any fundraiser’s armoury.

Great copy can inspire and compel people to support your cause, as well as building loyalty and engagement. And in these challenging times, who doesn’t need a bit of that?

So how can you your charity tell its story more clearly and powerfully? How can you use the power of the pen to inspire, connect with your supporters and build loyalty?

Killer copy

We all know that creating drop dead killer copy is no mean feat. And it’s something that even the most seasoned writers can struggle with.

Have you ever felt daunted by the prospect of writing a case for support or funding bid? Or any other fundraising copy for that matter?

The sweating palms and the racing pulse as you think about the colleagues, donors and funders who will be reading your copy?  And perhaps the sinking feeling that this whole copywriting thing just might not be your thing?

Stop right there.

Writing is not a magic gift bestowed on the few. It is not a dark art that only a few can master.

With some simple techniques and planning – and a bit of good old-fashioned practice – you can produce better, stronger and more impactful copy.

How to craft killer copy

Here are five practical changes that you can implement today to help you improve your fundraising copywriting.

01: It’s all about them (not you)

Whether your copy is written for a major donor, corporate, regular giver or charitable trust, it needs to be all about them.

In short, your copy needs to focus on YOU the reader, not WE the organisation.

I call this the YOU test. And if we are going to get technical for a moment, this is all about shifting from an organisation-centric approach to a donor-centric one.

And implementing this one is pretty darn simple to be honest.

Read through the content paragraph-by-paragraph. Underline every reference to your charity (‘we’, ‘our’, ‘us’, ‘the ABC Charity’ etc).

Then tot them up. How many references to your organisation area there in your copy?

Now re-read your copy again, this time highlighting any references to the donor / the reader / the funder (‘you’ ‘your’ ‘the XYZ Charitable Trust’ etc).

Now go and count all the references to YOU that you have just highlighted.  

To pass this test, you need to have many more references to YOU the donor, than to WE the organisation. 

If you failed the test, see if you can reframe some of the copy to make it more donor centric.

Here is one example from a youth charity’s annual report and accounts:

Organisation centric sentence:

“Last year WE helped 150 young people into employment.”

New, improved, donor-centric version:

“Thanks to you, 150 young people found employment last year.”

02: Speak a language everyone understands

NEET young people. Person-centred care. Trauma-informed support. International advocacy.

We in the charity sector do love a bit of jargon, don’t we? And we’re quite partial to the odd acronym too.

It’s not surprising that more and more grant-making foundations are asking applicant charities to write in clear, plain English. Two of the sector’s biggies, the Garfield Weston Foundation and the National Lottery Community Fund, now specifically ask charities to avoid jargon.

So, before putting your copy under the nose of anyone else, do a jargon and acronym-busting exercise.

Go through your copy line by line and remove any jargon or acronyms, or any words that may be unclear to someone who doesn’t know your organisation well.

Impactful copy needs to be made up clear, plain words and language that is accessible to everyone. And if we really want to change lives and communities for the better, then let’s talk a language that we all understand.

03: Replace abstractions with concrete terminology

An abstraction is a general concept or idea that is not concrete or tangible.

Health. Freedom. Confidence. Quality of life. Empowerment. Confidence. 

Abstract concepts like these, are of course complex ideas. And because of this they can mean different things to different people.

And therein lies the problem.

One abstraction that particularly gets my goat is ‘independence.’

Many charities have a goal of helping their beneficiaries become ‘independent.’ So not surprising that this is well-worn word in our sector.

But for a charity working with profoundly disabled children, independence means something very different to a charity working with vulnerable but able-bodied teenage mums.

Running a quick abstraction test is a good way of sharpening up your copy.

Highlight all abstractions. Then use concrete, tangible language or examples to replace or explain them.

With ‘independent’, show your reader in concrete terms what the abstraction actually looks. Tying their own shoelaces. Travelling to school independently. Living in their own home. Learning to drive.

Make it so crystal clear that the reader can visualise what independence – or any other abstraction you use – looks like.

04: Sentence length

Whatever you are writing, keeping the reader engaged is crucial. Lose their attention and you end up in the spam folder or wastepaper basket.

One clever way to help keep the reader reading is to pay attention to sentence length.

Many copywriters recommend keeping sentences short. 16 to 20 words is often said to be plenty long enough for a sentence. And for digital copy, I’d cut it down even further.

Varying the length of your sentences is also a powerful communication technique.

Short sentences add power when they contrast with longer ones, helping reduce the chance that your reader doesn’t make it to the end.

05: Get a writing assistant

Most copywriters worth their salt use a virtual editor. Grammarly is the market leader here. But there are a whole host of friendly AI powered writing assistants out there, ready to help you make your writing more readable.

A virtual editor doesn’t just highlight your spelling and grammatical errors but also provides solutions, often with a click of a button. It can also help you improve your vocabulary. Virtual editors will point out if your word choice is weak or if you are using a particular word too often or are repeating one in the same sentence. It instantly suggests alternative words that improve your writing flow.

Virtual editors can also help you avoid poor writing habits such as using the passive voice and over complicated sentence structures.

I really like hemingway , particularly if I’m writing for a digital audience. It highlights sentences that are ‘hard to read’ and ‘very hard to read’ which I then have to simplify, shorten and make more readable.

So, if you are not using a virtual writing assistant, now is the time to start.

The bottom line

If you can put these principles into practice, you will be en route towards clearer, more impactful fundraising copy. More to follow.

Happy writing.

For more information or a conversation about how I can help you with fundraising copywriting, please get in touch.