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A Nonprofit Copywriter Can Help You Grow Your Organization
Anyone who has worked with a nonprofit organization knows the importance of good writing. Communicating with supporters is critical to the organization’s success and its continued growth.
The amount of copy needed is surprising: fundraising letters, grant proposals, newsletters, donor thank you’s, event invitations, strategic plans…the list goes on and on.
A skilled nonprofit copywriter can help you build your organization’s identity and spread its message. Furthermore, the quality of your group’s written communications could have a direct impact on recruiting volunteers and raising funds.
Understandably, the budget for copywriting in a nonprofit is often tight. Even well-established organizations often lack the funds to accomplish all of their marketing goals.
Without the resources to hire a full-time or freelance copywriter, content creation can fall on the shoulders of the executive director, development director or administration assistant.
Unfortunately, these team members may not have the skills to do the job. Perhaps an even bigger hurdle is finding the time.
At many nonprofits, paid employees wear multiple hats and have an overwhelming number of responsibilities. In addition to their day-to-day duties, they often take work home, attend fundraising dinners in the evening, and chair special events and board retreats on the weekends.
When are they supposed to compose a thoughtfully worded fundraising letter or complete the complicated application process for a grant?
The state of Florida (where I live) has over 119,000 nonprofit organizations, and there are over 1.5 million nonprofits in the United States. Donors have plenty of choices for their charitable giving. Every state, every cause, every niche has organizations that rely on identifying and targeting the right donors.
Nonprofits must find ways to set themselves apart from other organizations if they want to compete successfully for their donations. Looking just like other charities in their space won’t make them memorable. The quality of their marketing activities and branding can significantly impact their success.
Out of sight is out of mind. A nonprofit’s ability to communicate with donors directly affects how much money it receives.
Donors don’t only want to hear from an organization at fundraising times. If they’re supporting your cause, they want to feel appreciated and also know what you’re doing throughout the year to affect change.
Now more than ever, nonprofit organizations need skilled copywriters to help them spread their message, maintain their visibility and mobilize participation.
Charitable giving is directly related to effectively written copy, especially for repeat donors. It takes $1.15 to raise the first dollar but less than $0.35 to retain donors.
Donors quit giving if they aren’t asked or don’t feel appreciated. The key to retaining those donors is to maintain a mailing schedule that includes updates, newsletters, campaign letters, thank-you notes and event invitations.
It should also include the nonprofit’s annual report, which gives donors an opportunity to see how their donations are being spent. Nonprofits need to make the effort to stay in touch, and not just at fundraising times.
Donors are also more likely to feel a connection to those nonprofits that use social media effectively, keeping the organization’s name and cause in front of its audience.
Nonprofits must invest time and money in their marketing efforts, in the same way that for-profit organizations do.
Good communication isn’t something you can do just once a year. To be truly effective, you must to be there day in and day out, using quality copywriting to stay top of mind and maintain a conversation with your supporters.
One of the biggest boons to fundraising in recent years has been the ability to request donations online and through mobile apps. Online giving grew 21% during 2020, according to a report from the Blackbaud Institute, a research division of cloud software company Blackbaud.
Organizations need to be continually improving and updating their online presentation, especially small and medium-sized nonprofits, which have in recent years experienced the largest growth in online fundraising.
Online giving is directly affected by your website, its ease of use and its content. Good copywriting on your site and a user-friendly call-to-action button for online giving are necessities. Without them, your organization is likely not maximizing its fundraising potential.
Make sure your website is mobile-friendly. People are more attached to their smartphones than ever before. Smartphone users are set to reach 271 million by 2022 in the U.S. alone. People are using their phones to check social media, perform web searches, and make purchases. In fact, worldwide ad spending is predicted to exceed 280 billion dollars by 2022.
Your nonprofit can leverage these statistics by ensuring your content and donations pages are mobile-friendly.
For nonprofit organizations, volunteers are one of their most important resources. Many nonprofits would not survive without the talent, time and hard work of their volunteers.
Much like fundraising, recruiting volunteers is a form of marketing. Good copywriting targeted at the right individuals can help attract and leverage volunteers.
In facing stiff competition for volunteer hours, those organizations that are effective in promoting their need and opportunities for volunteers will fare best.
Writing grant proposals has become an art form. Your narrative must stand out in an increasingly competitive funding landscape. This important task is not the job of an administrative assistant, volunteer or an executive director who’s at the same time handling the day-to-day challenges of your organization. There’s simply too much at stake.
If winning grants could make a significant difference in your nonprofit’s future, then hiring a professional grant writer on a freelance basis could be a wise investment.
A professional grant writer can sell your project in an engaging way. She will craft the right wording to convey the importance of your program, demonstrate the full breadth of your capabilities and inspire confidence in your ability to succeed.
When creating copy for your nonprofit organization’s website, you want to consider your target audience. Determine what’s most important to your constituents.
Grabbing donors’ attention and getting them to reach for their wallet is no easy feat. Like you, your donors and volunteers are busy people. They’re likely preoccupied with their own day-to-day struggles. You need to reach out and help them feel an emotional connection to your cause.
To be effective, your written communications should do the following:
A skilled copywriter can help you paint a picture of great need while demonstrating to volunteers and donors how their contributions will make a difference. That information belongs on your nonprofit’s website, in your newsletters, in your fundraising emails and in your annual report.
If you find yourself tasked with writing your organization’s website, composing fundraising letters or keeping your supporters up to date with social media posts, consider employing some of these proven nonprofit copywriting techniques:
Tell a story – Don’t underestimate the power of a moving story. Captivate your prospect with an emotional true story that illustrates your cause.
Be interesting – Don’t overwhelm the reader with boring statistics or an abundance of facts.
Fewer generalities and more specifics – Translate your need into terms the reader can relate to.
Use real examples – You’ve seen politicians master this technique – tell the tale of one constituent to illustrate a single point to millions.
Be transparent in your objectives – State your goals with clarity.
Avoid sounding whiny or too needy – Find the fine line between explaining your cause and sounding hopeless. Donors want to know their donation has potential to make a difference.
Target your prospect – Determine who your best possible donor is (male or female, approximate age, etc.) and what key points he or she would likely find most compelling.
Be personable – Write your letter as conversationally as possible. Despite what you probably learned in high school English class, you can sound professional even when writing in casual English.
Don’t address the masses – Write like you’re talking one person, the reader, not the hundreds or thousands to whom you may be sending your appeal.
Include photos whenever possible – Nothing tugs at the heart strings more than a poignant photo.
Back up your claims – Quote statistics and facts from reputable sources.
Stay in touch – Communication must be an ongoing process.
Be grateful – People want to feel appreciated. Thank-you notes are a necessity. Be sure to personalize the greeting and signature block or your efforts won’t have the desired impact.
Remind them of social media – Include links to your social media in all your communications. If you can get your donors to connect with your organization on social networks like Twitter and Facebook, you have the means to stay in touch with them on an ongoing basis. And you might even gain visibility to their contacts.
Include a call-to-action — In your communications materials, ask people to sign up, register, donate, renew, buy, subscribe or share.
Track results – Your nonprofit should be continually refining its communications practices. Take note of what works and what doesn’t.
When your organization is ready to move beyond DIY copywriting, consider hiring a freelance nonprofit copywriter. He or she can write your fundraising appeals, website content, grant proposals, social media posts, annual report and more.
While DIY copywriting may seem like the most cost-effective option, touch-passing that work to a professional writer could improve your organization’s written communications. It would also free up team members to focus on their more important purpose – executing your nonprofit’s mission.
An experienced nonprofit writer can craft copy that inspires action — copy that attracts and retains donors, board members, and volunteers. With the right person doing the job, you should see an excellent return on your investment.
What kind of copy does your nonprofit struggle to produce? A professional copywriter can assist you with any of the following items for your organization:
Just about every charity and nonprofit could benefit from copywriting talent. A professional nonprofit copywriter is usually well worth the investment. He or she can help you build support and grow your organization one carefully chosen word at a time.
Still interested in handling the copywriting for your nonprofit organization yourself? Here are answers to common questions to help you succeed:
What challenges do nonprofits face when writing copy to promote their cause?
Limited resources is often the biggest problem for nonprofits. Any time or money they dedicate to writing copy reduces their resources to be used in achieving their core mission.
So should nonprofits divert resources to copywriting when they have other more pressing issues on their plate?
No, copy is important. Out of sight is out of mind. A nonprofit’s ability to communicate with donors directly affects how much money it receives.
Donors don’t only want to hear from an organization at fundraising times. If they’re supporting your cause, you want them to feel appreciated and engaged in your mission. They need to know how you’re working throughout the year to create change.
Fundraising isn’t easy. Donors have no shortage of charities clamoring for their financial help. Nonprofit organizations need good copy to:
When it comes to writing compelling web copy, what should nonprofits know overall, generally speaking?
In its most basic form, good copy must answer the question “So what?” You can’t assume that what is interesting to you will be interesting to others. Your job as a writer is to present the information so that it hooks the reader. For most non-profits, that means telling readers three things:
What are some beyond-the-basics tips and strategies for writing compelling web copy?
People want to know that their donations and volunteer hours are making a difference. Give facts that quantify the impact you’re having. It’s much more compelling to say “We fed 1,200 children under the age of 10 breakfast every day in 2019” than to say, “We fed a lot of children.” Fewer generalities and more specifics.
Use testimonials, case studies and success stories to demonstrate results.
Statistics are important but so are the stories of the people you are helping. Those stories humanize your mission. They put a face on your goals. They generate empathy and a desire to help others.
Write like you speak.
While a formal essay filled with big words may have gotten you an “A” in freshman English, formal writing won’t work for web copy. Conversational English is a lot easier to read and will therefore have a greater impact. So keep it simple and make sure your message is clear.
Is there any other advice to help budding nonprofit copywriters get started?
A popular Chinese proverb says: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today.”
Similarly, if you want to succeed as a nonprofit copywriter in the future, the best time to take action is today. You can read books about copywriting. You can take courses on the subject. You can even interview professional copywriters for tips. But the real learning process comes from doing.
Learning to write is like learning to play the piano. Until you sit down at the keyboard and start practicing, you aren’t making any real progress. Start writing TODAY.