Fundraising with nouns and verbs

A standard piece of writing advice is Write with nouns and verbs, not adjectives and adverbs.

It’s good advice for fundraising writing too.

It can be tempting to pile on the adjectives (modify nouns) and adverbs (modify verbs and usually end with -ly) because they seem to make your writing more vivid.

But that usually backfires.

Here’s a great post on writing from ProActive Content — Fundraising Copywriting Smackdown: Verbs vs Adjectives — on the impact of scaling back your modifiers. Here’s what happens when you do that:

  • It Removes Unnecessary Excess. Those modifiers are less informative than you think. Their main impact is to bulk out your word-count, making sentences longer and harder to read. And a well-chosen verb can say it all.
  • Verbs Focus the Imagery on the People. Modifiers tend to make your writing about what things are like, and fundraising needs to be about concrete things: People and their needs.
  • The New Focus Sets Up the Fundraising Ask. You’ll get your reader focused on nouns (people and things) and verbs (actions). And that’s what fundraising is.

One of the most improving steps you can take for your fundraising is to go through and cross out adjectives and adverbs. You don’t have to remove all of them, but the fewer you keep, the better!


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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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