Great fundraising copy doesn’t look great to everyone

Want to know what sucks about fundraising copy?

The more excellent it seems, the less excellent it is.

I’ve seen appeals that read like poetry …

Imagery that would make John Donne gasp.

Layers of connotation that would surprise James Joyce.

Inner rhythm like a Chopin etude, architecture like a Bach invention. With consonance and assonance straight from the pen of Dylan Thomas.

But when real donors got the appeal, they didn’t care. All that great stuff added up to almost nothing in terms of response.

The ones that work? They’re usually look a little rough: Dashed out, simplistic, repetitive to the point of boring.

But the professionals know — those winners that look so crappy? They’re just as hard to write as the beauties that impress everyone but don’t quite work. And that’s what separates the men from the boys, the women from the girls, in fundraising.

If it’s any comfort, other kinds of writing are like that too. W.B. Yeats wrote about this in his poem Adam’s Curse:

… ‘A line will take us hours maybe;

Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought,

Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.

Better go down upon your marrow-bones

And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones

Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;

For to articulate sweet sounds together

Is to work harder than all these…’


Comments

2 responses to “Great fundraising copy doesn’t look great to everyone”

  1. F Mischler Avatar
    F Mischler

    Would be nice to see a couple examples for illustration. Maybe some of your readers can post theirs . . . ? I got none, sadly.

  2. F Mischler Avatar
    F Mischler

    Would be nice to see a couple examples for illustration. Maybe some of your readers can post theirs . . . ? I got none, sadly.

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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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