Fundraising is not really about writing

If you go by the topics of books that are sold to fundraisers, you might get the impression that the most important skill for someone who wants to raise funds is excellent writing.

The reason for that: Most books are written by writers. And most writers wisely follow the dictum, Write what you know.

Writing is an important skill for fundraising, but it’s not the most important. It’s not even #2. It’s somewhere around #5.

Here are some of the things that have more impact than good writing:


  • Audience. Having a group of people who resonate with your cause. Knowing who they are. Knowing how to find them.
  • Segmentation. Among your supporters, you know whom to ask, when, how often, how much, by what means, and for what topics.
  • Offer. Knowing what your supporters and prospects are most likely to support. You’ve got the language and amounts dialed in.
  • Plan. You know well in advance whom you are going to ask, in what media, how much it’s going to cost, what your likely returns are.

You’ve probably seen jaw-droppingly bad fundraising writing that’s succeeding. That’s because it’s doing well on at least some of the things that matter more than good writing.

And the greatest writing on the planet can’t rescue your fundraising if you’re getting the other stuff wrong.

I hope whoever writes your fundraising writes well. But I hope even more you have the bigger stuff under control.


Comments

2 responses to “Fundraising is not really about writing”

  1. Excellent points!
    I’m a copywriter. I do a lot of fundraising work. People look at me strangely when I tell them that the actual writing is the least part of what goes into an effective piece. But its true.
    If you don’t know your audience – what they care about, what motivates them – then even with the best writing you’re just guessing.
    I’ve found that a surprising number of non-profit organizations do not ask their biggest donors why they support them. Personally, I’ve found one of the best ways to get the info you talk about in this post is by going directly to the source…

  2. Excellent points!
    I’m a copywriter. I do a lot of fundraising work. People look at me strangely when I tell them that the actual writing is the least part of what goes into an effective piece. But its true.
    If you don’t know your audience – what they care about, what motivates them – then even with the best writing you’re just guessing.
    I’ve found that a surprising number of non-profit organizations do not ask their biggest donors why they support them. Personally, I’ve found one of the best ways to get the info you talk about in this post is by going directly to the source…

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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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