Bullet lists can drain the life from your fundraising — or pump up the energy — here’s how

Bullet points are normally a helpful tool for making what you’ve written more readable.

When you have several similar points you need to make, a bulleted list can:

  • Introduce visual variety, which increases readability.
  • Turn what would have been a long paragraph into an easily scannable entry point.
  • Organize your thinking, thus making it more clear.
  • Lower the reading level of your copy.

All good.

But let me show you a type of bulleted list that hurts fundraising results: A list of program attributes.

In an appeal asking donors to support a poverty fighting program, it might list what beneficiaries will get:

  • A quality education
  • Basic medical care
  • Nutritious food

Just a list of attributes. Important things, but boring.

Actually, worse than boring. It draws the eye, possibly away from something interesting, motivating, and about the donor … and it delivers almost nothing to the reader.

Remember, people don’t donate to fund programs. They give to make things happen.

So to make sure your bulleted lists speak to their motivations, you might take those attributes and make it a list of the problems they solve:

  • Without a quality education, the children have little chance of improving their futures.
  • Lacking basic medical care, far too many are dying from preventable diseases.
  • Because they don’t get enough nutritious food, they’re suffering the devastating and long-term impact of malnutrition.

Or make it about the donor with a list of what they’ll make possible when they give:

  • You’ll provide a quality education that will transform the kids’ lives.
  • You’ll give them basic medical care that will keep them healthy and even saves their lives.
  • You’ll supply nutritious food that will fill their empty tummies today and keep them healthy and full of energy.

(Tip: If all — or even some — of your list items have the word you in them, you are more likely on the right track.)

Don’t waste your time (and your readers’ attention) with merely listing attributes. Make it interesting. Make it about the donor!


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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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About the blogger

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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