When fundraising writing is too good

Occasionally you’ll see fundraising copy that reads something like this:

The rain slashed down like needles as the evening darkness spread, bring the fear of night to the huddled inhabitants of the homeless camp under the roaring traffic of the freeway.

That’s (arguably) strong writing; at any rate, it’s detailed and sensory. But would you write like that in a letter to your mother?

Or would you say it more like this:

The homeless people out there under the freeway are so hungry and cold. Won’t you please help them?

The first example is “workshop” writing — because creative writing workshops are where you learn to do it. It’s a form of art, not a form of person-to-person communication.

It’s stylized, specialized discourse. It doesn’t come across as authentic communication.

Good fundraising is an authentic, human connection, not high-end art. If you want to genuinely reach people, tell stories the way people tell them verbally, not the way novelists write them.

Colloquial writing can be just as dramatic and powerful as workshop writing. But it sounds like a normal person is talking, not like a writer plying his craft.

And colloquial writing takes just as much skill — more, actually.

Save your workshop writing for the workshop. If you’re fundraising, concentrate on connecting with people on a personal, heartfelt level.


Comments

4 responses to “When fundraising writing is too good”

  1. I couldn’t have said this better! I often suggest to people that they read their letters out loud to see if they sound conversational. That’s when folks understand that we speak with contractions, “ands”, “buts”, etc. — all those things we were taught in school to NOT write. Ah, well. School’s out for summer!

  2. I couldn’t have said this better! I often suggest to people that they read their letters out loud to see if they sound conversational. That’s when folks understand that we speak with contractions, “ands”, “buts”, etc. — all those things we were taught in school to NOT write. Ah, well. School’s out for summer!

  3. Jeff this reminds me of the same for photography in fundraising. I find myself fighting the urge as a photographer to be overly artistic or distinctive, and focus on the images that convey content and the emotion that can only come from a real moment with real people – usually not the same as an image that is powerful aesthetically.
    Dave

  4. Jeff this reminds me of the same for photography in fundraising. I find myself fighting the urge as a photographer to be overly artistic or distinctive, and focus on the images that convey content and the emotion that can only come from a real moment with real people – usually not the same as an image that is powerful aesthetically.
    Dave

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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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