Quick Tips for Fundraising Appeal Copywriting

Fundraisers: Here are some quick, easy to implement tips that you can use in your next fundraising appeal. πŸ’›

Chris presenting at the BuildGood Summit β€’ Start out short
β€’ Beware: the YOU desert
β€’ Write (and design) for skimmers
β€’ SHOW. Don’t tell.
β€’ Avoid a great barrier wall of text
β€’ Remember your reading glasses
β€’ Human eyes follow eyes
β€’ P.S. You’ve got this!


I presented this list (and many more tips) at the first ever BuildGood Summit in Winnipeg (May 4-5, 2023).

Here’s what they all mean #icymi

πŸ’‘ Start your appeal with a short sentence that hooks your donor in. Starting out short also gives your donor’s brain a chance to warm up, get into the zone, and get mentally prepared to read your letter.

πŸ’‘ A YOU desert is when the word YOU (or you’re or your) doesn’t appear for several sentences. YOU is the most important word in your fundraising copy. YOU helps your donor feel connected. YOU makes your letter personal. And isn’t fundraising all about building personal relationships?

πŸ’‘ It’s a bit hard for us copywriters to accept… but donors don’t pore over our every written word. They’re busy people. They skim. They look at photos and headlines. They make quick judgements about whether our letter is worth reading. Use those first impressions wisely.

πŸ’‘ You can use words to SHOW your story, rather than tell it. Help your donors feel the emotions, hear the sounds, or touch the story. Use vivid words to paint a picture. Help your donor can SEE (imagine) how her gift will do good things.

πŸ’‘ Too much text crammed on a page is just too dang hard to read. And if your letter feels like it’s a chore, it’ll end up in the bin. Avoid the bin. Write short sentences and paragraphs. Design with wide margins and plenty of white space. Consider using one word sentences for impact. (Yes, your boss will probably flip out, but your boss isn’t your donor. Write for your donor.)

πŸ’‘ Make sure your letter is legible. Increase that font size. Don’t make your donor search around for her magnifying glass. If your donor has to struggle to read your letter, she probably won’t read your letter. Use a serif fontβ€”it’ll be easier for your donor. And use a high contrast black type on white paper for maximum visibility.

πŸ’‘ Humans instinctively look at eyes. Ever notice someone look up and found yourself reflexively looking up, too? Same with eyes in photos. We follow the gaze. So, you can use your photos to help direct your donor’s eyes to lines of copy on your page. Or, your subject can look directly at your donor and help her feel connected to your story. (Works with animal eyes and human eyes.)

πŸ’‘ Remember how your donor is most likely skimming your letter? We know from eye motion studies that your donor is highly likely to turn the letter over to see who sent it before she reads it. If the P.S. is right there, quite possibly she’ll read that, too. Use the P.S. to capture her attention and sum up your ask. It may be the only chance you get.

I hope this is helpful.

Please feel welcome to πŸ”” follow me on LinkedIn for more #fundraising #copywriting #philanthropy tips.

Leave a Comment