Your unique voice makes your fundraising fail

The worst thing I’ve ever been told by a nonprofit client:

Our president has a very strong and unique voice. It’s critical that all materials you write for us adhere to that voice.

Every time I’ve heard this, the result has been the same: The boss’ unique writing voice doesn’t adjust to effective fundraising writing. In fact, it pretty much outlaws it.

The unique voices of boss after boss are surprisingly similar to each other: formal, complex, hard to read, self-focused, padded out with abstractions.

So fundraising limps along weakly, with tepid response to every campaign.

The odd thing about “voice” in writing is that most people don’t recognize it at all. It’s something they heard about in some English course a long time ago, not a practical reality in their own writing.

You have to be an experienced writer to grasp the idea of voice. Some of those “unique voice” bosses get that much. But they’re unaware of an even more important feature of voice:

Expert writers understand that voice adjusts to its audience.

The very purpose of “voice” is to accomplish a goal.

If you find yourself struggling with a “my unique voice” boss, you have my sympathy. If the boss is a reasonable and insightful person, you may be able to have a fruitful discussion about the issue. You can use the many books and blog posts about effective fundraising writing to make the point.

Some bosses will listen to you. Some won’t.

If you’re stuck with the second kind, I suggest you start looking for a different job. There are some amazing leaders out there who will let you do your job and thank you for not wrongly applying their voice to the fundraising!


Comments

2 responses to “Your unique voice makes your fundraising fail”

  1. Eliza Olson Avatar
    Eliza Olson

    Great email. Thank you.

  2. Eliza Olson Avatar
    Eliza Olson

    Great email. Thank you.

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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.