5 things “good writers” avoid — but fundraisers embrace

If you’ve had any high-level writing training, you’ve learned some pieces of wisdom that will make you a better writer.

If you want to do well in fundraising, you need to forget many of those same pieces of wisdom. Because they will make your fundraising weaker.

Here are some things “good” writers avoid … but fundraising writers are okay with:

  1. Telling. The common writing advice is Show, don’t tell. For fundraising, it should be Show and tell. If you skip “telling” in fundraising, a lot of your readers won’t grasp what you want them to know or do!
  2. Repetition. In “good” writing, you usually avoid saying something more than once. In fundraising, we know that if you say something only once, a lot of readers won’t know you’ve said it. In fundraising, the ask should appear many times.
  3. Clichés. Don’t lean on tired old ways of describing things. Invent new ways. Except in fundraising, where we aren’t getting graded on originality. Clichés are clear and often have emotional punch precisely because they’re familiar. Don’t avoid them.
  4. Exclamation marks. “Good” writers create excitement with words, so they rarely need exclamation marks. We fundraisers create excitement every which way we can. We are not afraid of a few exclamation marks. But don’t over-use them; if every sentence has an exclamation mark, that’s the same as having none at all.
  5. Passive voice. The nearly universal condemnation of passive voice is silly, really. Good writing almost always has some passive sentences. In fundraising, we care a lot about sounding informal and colloquial, so we use a bit more passive than others. It’s another thing to be careful not to over-do.

Want help with your fundraising writing project? Let’s talk! It’s easy: Click here to schedule a free 25 minute session with me. Bring your fundraising challenge or question and let’s see if I can help.


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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.