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More thoughts on fundraising letters

A friend and colleague, Mark Laskowski, a copywriter for WGBH in Boston added some salient thoughts.

“Forget yourself (your tastes, predilections and pet peeves), you’re not writing this for you, you’re writing it to persuade donors to take action. Get inside their heads and think about why they do (or would or should ) value what your NPO does.

“Also, avoid invoking the word “need.” If “we really need your help” was remotely persuasive, we’d live in a world where beggars would ride through swarms of flying pigs. People give to a non-profit organization because it *meets* human and/or community needs, not because it blithely needs money (thank you, Kay Sprinkel Grace).

“Finally, a good editor (maybe rarer than a good writer) is a midwife to the original concept. Very little persuasive copy was ever written by committee.”

I agree. On Mark’s final point, I have seen great fundraising copy emasculated as it is passed from one person to another within an organization. Most bring their own “tastes, predilections and pet peeves” to the process so that, in the end, the letter has no voice.

Mark’s second point deserves (and will receive) more attention in my fundraising blog, but I will add that a second word nonprofit organizations should expunge from their vocabularies is “deserve.” We are owed nothing. We owe loyalty to the donor and to those we serve.

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