We don’t have a lot of policies here at the Agents of Good.
Well, just one really. No jackasses.
We do, however, have a fair number of guiding principles. Using, the word “donor” instead of “data”. Writing and designing for donors, not the branding guide. Putting feelings over facts. Focusing on the “why” and not the “how”. Ours is a kingdom of emotions and values.
And, when we present stories to clients, we want them to experience it the way donors will. Start at the top and read all the way through. Then, we have a conversation. We talk about sticky spots, phrasing that maybe doesn’t quite work, whether we can tug on this thread or that thread. I share why I chose this way instead of that way, I invite both general and specific comments.
We put it down and come back to it again. Make final changes, and off we go.
Here’s the thing. I choose my written words carefully. I think about every word, sentence, paragraph. Are there other words I could have used, yes. But after writing direct response for 20 years, I have honed the craft of writing conversationally.
“All fundraising copy should sound like someone talking.” RIP George Smith.
And there is a trend in charity offices around the world that is toxic and poisonous. Track Changes.
Do you know what happens when 3 or 5 or 15 people edit the same document? Other than a beautiful rainbow of colours and a punch in the guts for the person who took time, attention and care to choose every word? Your piece now sounds like it’s been written by a committee. And you can’t go back. You have different voices, competing to be heard, talking on top of each other.
Your story has lost its very soul.
I’m delighted FOR YOU that it is easier to get approved because everyone has had their fingerprints on it. It’s all very efficient FOR YOU that someone has verified that the correct, pre-approved, branding-confirmed messaging is in tact. I can see that FOR YOU, together you have created a perfect, corporate-approved, sanitized piece that will make everyone in your office nod along.
And I weep for YOUR DONOR. She just wants a story to move her to action.