Fundraising That Works

Looking Good!

Fundraising is not about sounding smart, looking good or appearing professional.

Deep breath everyone.

Ready for some reality?

The more you worry about making your fundraising copy sound professional the less well it will perform.Focusing on your design aesthetic will reduce your fundraising results.

Great fundraising copy “reads” like you’re talking out loud to another person. Incomplete sentences in carefully-crafted, messy copy (see what I did there?).

If you want to tank your fundraising results, begin to worry about what “they” will think about you when they read the copy or see the art.

Your writing style isn’t the main thing, right?

The main thing is to inspire, motivate and impact the reader. Business speak can’t do that.

“Professional” writing won’t do it.

The writing they taught you in grad school won’t do it (at least at most grad schools).

What will hold a reader’s attention (and win donors’ hearts)?


Passionate. (Think love letters and emails sent between separated lovers at 2 in the morning).

Stories with quotes that sound like an actual person said them.

Clear, brave, no waffling calls to action that grab the reader by the throat (and heart).

The more you sweat trying to sound professional, the less likely you are to gain and hold your reader’s attention.

Remember, donors are motivated by their emotions. When you aim to impress their intellect and brain you’ve aimed about 24 inches too high. Always aim for their heart.

David Frum, journalist, political expert and speech writer put it this way in a recent article in The Atlantic:

“People do not think; they feel. They do not believe what is true; they regard as true that which they wish to believe.”

Stop trying to be smart, intellectual or professional.

If you’ve made it this far I can give you this disclaimer: I don’t want you to look dumb or ignorant or like you don’t know what you’re talking about. But don’t focus so much on your idealized professional brand that you forget that fundraising must be about a person communicating to a person. You’re not a corporation pitching for venture capital. This is still thoughtful, careful communication.

Remember the donor is a person.

Create believers.

Inspire and provoke.

Start wooing the donor.

Connect at the heart level.

Persuade with stories (ideally stories about 1 person, 1 family or 1 community).

That’s what will work and accelerate your fundraising. And help your donors love what you do.

I’d love to know what’s on your mind. Thanks for the stories and comments you’re sharing with me. We’re in this together. It’s a fun, untidy journey.