WARNING: Your Fundraising Communications are Too Pretty

Thumbs up!Creative is great. I see lots of beautiful newsletters, web pages and email appeals. They have great design, colors, photos and even videos. But they have a problem.

They tend not to be original. They tend to be the same old thing you always talk about. Yourself.

They aren’t donor-centric.

Just dressing yourself up in pretty clothes and talking about your organization from your perspective won’t do it. No matter how pretty you make it. What are donors buying with their gifts after all? Donors purchase an impact they want to achieve. Through you.

Include your donors. Allow them to help you fix something.

And always incorporate an attitude of gratitude.

You’re great. No doubt about it. But don’t toot your own horn. Toot your donor’s horn. Tell them what they can accomplish.  Tell them what they made possible.  Write from your donor’s perspective. Because without them, you’re toast.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t write creatively. You should! But as a creative storyteller,  not as a creative reporter.

Pretend you don’t work for your organization.  The fact that you just won an award, or that you expanded your program or that you added a staff or board member just might not be all that interesting.

Pretend you don’t believe you’re so worthwhile that you’re entitled to contributions. No one is so entitled. You earn the right to ask for contributions based on the need you’re effectively meeting. Not based on your needs.

And that need you’re meeting – because of your amazing donors — must be described with some simplicity, directness and emotion in order for your reader to take notice.

Stop gazing at your pretty navel. It’s only pretty to you. Plus, staring at it assures you won’t be able to look at anything else. Look upwards and outwards. At what your donor cares about.

Use real voices. Get rid of corporate speak. Get rid of “I” and “we” and “our.” Use “you.”

Remove jargon. Remove big words. Remove design that gets in the way of what you’re saying. Make your communications easy to read.

Stop worrying that you’re ‘talking down’ to folks. People are not looking for Proust when they engage with your fundraising communications. They’re busy.  They just don’t have time for you.  Sorry, but it’s the truth.

Unless you make it screamingly easy. And emotion-packed. And, well, just impossible to ignore.

Think about how you want folks to feel.

After someone finishes reading what you’ve written, will they have a smile on their face? A lump in their throat? Will they be angry about some wrong that must be righted? Angry enough to take action?  Sad about something awful that is happening? Sad enough to take action and put on a happy face?  Happy that someone is being helped? Happy enough to want to join you and spread the joy?

Paint a picture that shows donors what will happen after they help. A picture. Not a graph, spreadsheet or pie chart. Not a term paper. A story they can visualize. A story they want to become a part of.  A story to which they’d like to give a happy ending.

That’s why your fundraising communications need to be about how great the donor is. Not how great you are.

Give credit where credit is due.

Speaking of Stories…

This is your LAST WEEK to register for my newest e-course:  THE POWER OF STORYTELLING – 4 Weeks to Engage Board and Staff as Passionate Fundraisers. Learn to tell your remarkable stories – and persuade donors to join you in your mission. Register today and learn to really rock the most powerful way to engage donors emotionally and persuade them to make a philanthropic investment in your cause!

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About Claire

I’m Claire and I want to help you raise more money, reach more people and build long-lasting relationships with your supporters. Take a look in the archives.


  1. Claire – absolutely fantastic!
    Thank you for speaking on this important issue and offering practical advice that non-profits can implement immediately.

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