Fundraising rules for National Grammar Day

Today, March 4th, is the only date that’s also a command: March forth!

That’s why today is National Grammar Day. I don’t follow the logic either. But I’ll take any chance to get nerdy about words!

So here are some grammar (and usage) rules for fundraisers:

  • Fundraising paragraphs don’t need to start with a topic sentence. And each paragraph doesn’t have to contain one complete idea. In fundraising, the paragraph isn’t a unit of information. It’s a visual structure. Try one-sentence paragraphs. One word paragraphs.
  • Sentence fragments? No problem in fundraising. Fragments add energy to copy and improve reading ease.
    And on a related note: feel free to start sentences with conjunctions. They help propel the reader forward.
  • In fundraising, contractions are a must. If you do not use them, you will sound like a robot.
  • Semicolons, the lawyer’s favorite punctuation mark, rarely belong in fundraising. They’re formal and legalistic. Hardly anyone knows how to use them correctly, so they confuse many readers. If you know how to use semicolons, congratulations; just don’t use them in fundraising.
  • Have you been slapped around for using passive voice? Passive voice can be used in fundraising. It’s a natural way to talk, and good writing typically contains some passive sentences. Just don’t use it too much.
  • Avoid puns and wordplay in your fundraising. They’re much loved by writers, but most people don’t get them, don’t care, and find them confusing or annoying.
  • Use clichés in fundraising. There’s a reason clichés catch on. They express things people often want to express—in short (and sweet) ways that are easy (as pie) to remember.
  • In fundraising, please don’t follow those fake rules some English teachers spread around like Don’t end sentences with prepositions, Avoid split infinitives, and Never use exclamation marks outside of direct quotes.
  • In fundraising, use the word you a lot! Really a lot!


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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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