The writing secret that can double your fundraising success

Easier to read, more likely to raise money.

It’s pretty simple, but you might not know that to read a lot of fundraising these days. It mimics that turgid style of academic writing, with long, complex sentences and always-choose-the-longer-word vocabulary.

Some fundraisers apparently think that makes them look smart or sophisticated.

It actually makes them look worried about their organization’s future. Because writing that way steeply lowers response.

A recent test, reported in We Don’t Write So Good, a free ebook from NextAfter and DonorVoice (available for download, registration required) found the following disturbing, though unsurprising result:

… by lowering the reading level of the message from 10th-grade down to a 6th-grade reading level, we observed a 90.8% increase in revenue….

For many people, the only place they’ve had formal training in writing has been at school. And school teaches academic style: complicated, erudite, formal. Appropriate in the closed world of academia (maybe), but bristling with barriers to engagement and comprehension in the real world, where nobody is being paid (or forced) to read your stuff.

Writing for ease of reading is not easy. It takes more skill, especially if all you know is what you learned in school.

But if you hope to succeed in fundraising, it’s a skill you need.

Check your readability. It’s built into the grammar check of many programs. Or you there are many online places that will check your reading ease for you.

And write for reading ease.

When you write like an academic, you actively exclude most of your donors, including those with advanced degrees.

And they’ll respond by paying less attention, which means they’ll give less often. Or never.


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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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