While dozens of business publications may believe that communications must be strictly professional in their tone, the world of nonprofit fundraising leans towards a delicate balance between the professional-speak and the feel of authenticity. When writing to your donors, it is imperative that you connect with them on a personal level, yet still maintain your business-like professionalism.
The goal of nonprofit fundraising is to create a bond with the donors. The donors must feel a connection to the charity, or they will not continue to support it with their time, influence and financial gifts. By using dialog that demonstrates a personal connection, the nonprofit group is promoting authenticity with their donors. The nonprofit is engaging donors in a connected manner, being true and real in a world overwhelmed with slick marketing hype.
Here are some key points to keep in mind to make sure you demonstrate authenticity with your donors:
- Take down the guards. Avoid stand-offish language that will read like a stale business meeting or sales report. Instead, use the opportunity to relate your charity to your donor. By creating an intimacy with your readers, you are allowing them to make a connection with the writer and the group. This is a personal attachment that affords the reader a glimpse at the inner workings of an animal rescue. This method is used on the first page of nearly every magazine in print in the US. The Editor spends a few paragraphs detailing how they are emotionally connected to the content of this month’s issue, or otherwise engaging the readers on a personal level.
- Keep the heart and soul in your writing, invoke the passion of your cause, and provide a unique perspective to your donors. Remember that you are writing to your friends, your donors! Be honest and direct with them, and convey your message with a clear and straightforward manner. Don’t overwrite your position.
- Persuade your readers to support your organization through storytelling, one of the best modes of connecting with donors. Showcase real examples of animals being helped, highlighting the people affected by these animals (new adopters, the volunteers who worked with the animal, the community members helped by TNR programs), and allow your donors to feel connected to these true stories. By describing an injured animal who has been helped by your organization and lovingly adopted, you provide the opportunity for your readers and donors to connect on an emotional level to the pain and joy highlighted in the story, as well as connecting on an intellectual level as the readers become acquainted with your group’s programs and successes.
“If we’re so concerned about connecting to our donors, then why do we still have to be professional?” you may ask. The key distinction is that donors will only entrust their hard earned money to a nonprofit group that is acting like a responsible business by being trustworthy, respectable, demonstrating a proven track record and by being forthcoming with information. No one wants to give money to a shady, fly-by-night, “we just got started and don’t know what we’re doing” sort of organization! Demonstrate your professional side to ensure continued business for your charity.
With all this emotional appeal and bonding in your writing, it may initially seem awkward or difficult to maintain a professional attitude. It may take practice, but it can be easier than it first appears. The simple truth is that your writing will still appear professional when you maintain good writing standards and layouts. Your high school English teacher will be thrilled to know that you are still using proper grammar and punctuation. Refrain from colloquial and conversational tones like “Hey y’all!” and “Gimme yur moola” and you’ll already appear more professional than dozens of direct mail pieces or newsletters being sent out to donors! You want to appeal to your donors as people, but you don’t want to sound like you’re writing a quick e-mail to your best friend. Maintain good writing, and your personal (yet, professional) tone will continue to deliver your message to your donors.