What it takes to be a fundraising writer

It’s good to be a professional, to know your stuff, to be trained and equipped to do your job.


But there’s a down side.


Many fundraisers have a mindset that fundraising is a specialized kind of communication that has its own special language.


That’s what leads to wooden, jargon-heavy, artificial fundraising that’s only marginally persuasive — and less so all the time as more and more people fine-tune their BS meters and tune out non-human blather.


Of course, fundraising is truly a job for professionals, and we need to know quite a lot in order to be effective. Here’s some of what a professional fundraising communicator should bring to the table:



  • Can write the way people talk. Sounds easy. It’s not. It’s one of the hardest writing tasks there is.
  • Remembers that fundraising is all about donors, not the organization. And not just remembering that, but stubbornly fighting for it. Because there will be forces against donor-focused fundraising.
  • Is audience aware. Can subordinate what she thinks is cool in order to reach people who are different from her. This also sounds easy, but more people get it wrong than get it right.

Then, with all that firmly in hand, just be human.


Comments

4 responses to “What it takes to be a fundraising writer”

  1. Dear Jeff,
    I agree that fundraisers need to not write in jargon, and be mindful of their audience.
    One of the things that makes fundraisers write bad appeals is the sheer lack of sensitivity to their needs at nonprofits. So many nonprofit leaders take the fundraisers for granted, telling them to churn out appeal letters, get 5,000 off by the end of the week, and they don’t care how much effort it takes.
    If nonprofit leadership cared about fundraisers, truly cared, they would talk with them, meet with them regularly, give them more opportunities for advancement, and help them categorize donors into who gives for what reason. Then you can give the business minded donor all of the fact they need, the socialite all of the party invitations, the communitarian all of the pictures and quotes they want, and so on.
    Mazarine
    http://wildwomanfundraising.com

  2. Dear Jeff,
    I agree that fundraisers need to not write in jargon, and be mindful of their audience.
    One of the things that makes fundraisers write bad appeals is the sheer lack of sensitivity to their needs at nonprofits. So many nonprofit leaders take the fundraisers for granted, telling them to churn out appeal letters, get 5,000 off by the end of the week, and they don’t care how much effort it takes.
    If nonprofit leadership cared about fundraisers, truly cared, they would talk with them, meet with them regularly, give them more opportunities for advancement, and help them categorize donors into who gives for what reason. Then you can give the business minded donor all of the fact they need, the socialite all of the party invitations, the communitarian all of the pictures and quotes they want, and so on.
    Mazarine
    http://wildwomanfundraising.com

  3. I had to laugh a bit as I read this Jeff.
    How many nonprofit leaders are willing to LET a fundraiser do his/her job? How many would review a perfectly written appeal letter, written “the way people talk,” written TO a donor (not AT them), even perhaps with deliberate scribbles in the margin, two and a half pages long and allow it to be mailed “as is?” Not many, I’d warrant. Nope, EDs have to pull out their Strunk’s and red pens and “correct” the grammar, “tighten” the letter, remove the photographs … and send out the exact same letter that 98.9% of nonprofit organizations send out.

  4. I had to laugh a bit as I read this Jeff.
    How many nonprofit leaders are willing to LET a fundraiser do his/her job? How many would review a perfectly written appeal letter, written “the way people talk,” written TO a donor (not AT them), even perhaps with deliberate scribbles in the margin, two and a half pages long and allow it to be mailed “as is?” Not many, I’d warrant. Nope, EDs have to pull out their Strunk’s and red pens and “correct” the grammar, “tighten” the letter, remove the photographs … and send out the exact same letter that 98.9% of nonprofit organizations send out.

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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