How I diagnose fundraising writing

It can be hard to critique someone else’s writing in a way that’s helpful to them, because we tend to start with our gut feeling about it. Telling someone, Yuck! I don’t think this is going to work! really isn’t helpful. Nor is saying, This is awesome! I love it!

Worse yet, gut feelings are not accurate. How you feel about some writing isn’t important, even though that feeling may be strong. But it tells you almost nothing about the likely effectiveness of the writing.

So when I need to critique a piece of fundraising writing, I start with statistics and facts about it:

  • First I check the readability, using Hemingway. It gives the reading grade level (which shouldn’t be above 6th grade). It also marks complex sentence (which are hard to read), and counts adverbs (there should be few or none).
  • Then I run the copy through the Latinometer, which shows the percentage of words are of Latin origin. Fewer = better. (This step is optional. When the readability statistics are very good, I generally don’t bother to check the Latin quotient. In those cases, I already know it’s good.)
  • Next, I highlight instances of “I” (in all its forms, singular and plural, including me, my, mine, we, us, our, etc.”) I count the organization’s name as a form of I. Then, in a different color, I highlight the word “you” in all its forms. You should outnumber I. This helps show what the letter is about. If it’s about your org, it’s probably off target.
  • Then I highlight jargon (words or phrases that are not meaningful to general audiences) and abstraction (terms that are vague and not concrete. There should be very little of either.
  • Finally, I look for a solid, specific call to action. If it doesn’t have one, it doesn’t matter if everything else is done to perfection — the letter won’t work. I look for repeated expressions of the offer.

Once I’ve done all that, I draw my general conclusions. Armed with useful facts, I can keep my gut reaction at bay and say useful, specific things.

Try it. I think you’ll like your outcomes!

(This post first appeared on November 16, 2016.)


Comments

4 responses to “How I diagnose fundraising writing”

  1. Can you help me with making my Patreon more impactful. How do I fundraise for blog post?

  2. Can you help me with making my Patreon more impactful. How do I fundraise for blog post?

  3. Laure Avatar

    Have you heard about tools like Latino meter or Hemingway for French ?

  4. Laure Avatar

    Have you heard about tools like Latino meter or Hemingway for French ?

Leave a Reply

What this blog is about

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.

Blog policies

Subscribe

Get new posts by email:

About the blogger

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.


Archives

Blogroll

Categories


Search the blog

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.

Recent Comments

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.

Blog Roll

someone’s blog