(With some apologies to the Norweigian Curling Team-jl)
This is an open letter to Executive Directors, Board Chairs and anyone in leadership positions in charities who sign fundraising appeals. It’s not my job to write appeals that sound like you. It’s my job to write appeals that engage your donors and raise you money. So here are some of my inner monologues on the subject.
Mr. Fancypants: “Agent Jen, I’m adding my degrees after my name.”
No, Mr. Fancypants, the letter does not come from Mr. Fancypants, B.A., M.A. I’m sure Mama Fancypants was real proud when you got your degrees, but if they don’t add value or context to what you are writing about, you are including them for the glorification of your ego and not for your donors.
Mr. Fancypants: “Agent Jen, I would never say this line.”
You’re right, Mr. Fancypants. You probably wouldn’t say something so compelling or inspiring. You’re kind of boring. But you are sending this appeal to ask for money, so you have to actually ASK for money if you want to get any. You need a call to action. It might not be the kind of chit-chat you and Mrs. Fancypants have over supper, but your donors need to know what you want and what you will do with it.
Mr Fancypants: “Agent Jen, can we work our mission statement into this line?”
Your mission statement was written by a committee and it sounds like it. If you want to inspire action and have an impact, you need to sound like a person and not a committee. You need to tell stories. You need to show your donors what you do and why it matters.
Mr. Fancypants: “Agent Jen, we don’t use words like this.”
I’m mostly delighted that charities are thinking about their voice and ensuring they are positioned appropriately. But please give your writers some context about it. I work with a major health charity who told me they don’t “fight” the disease. I didn’t get it. So I asked why. And the response was thoughtful and insightful: “Agent Jen, we want to turn the whole conversation around and talk about what we do and why we make a difference. We want a confident, leadership voice. We don’t have time to fight. We’re finding solutions and helping families.” Love it.