Charity copywriting: part 1

There is a particular art to attracting fundraisers, sponsors and supporters for non-profits and charitable causes. Here are some ideas to help with your charity copywriting:

Make it ‘rich’

Use all the senses – describe the dirt on the kids’ clothes, the colours of the flowers, how the spade sounds when it hits hard earth. Try to paint a picture as well as tell a story.

Tug the heartstrings

Go for real life stories. The beneficiaries of your charity are what it’s all about. Tell their story in order to let people know what you do. Include real quotes from real people as well as from ‘experts’.

Draw people in

Start with a question to make them feel engaged e.g.

Did you know that…?
Think of the last time you…
Imagine what it would be like if…

Show don’t tell

Take a lesson from novel-writing.

NO He was angry

YES He crashed into the room and smashed the ornaments off the mantle-piece

Don’t tell people how they should be feeling. Make them feel it through the power of your words.

NO It’s sad and outrageous that children like Jimmy can’t attend mainstream school.

YES Every day, Jimmy eats his lunch, sitting on a park bench, alone. He sees the other children in the playground, and wishes he could join in. He worries that he’s missing out. He is.

People ‘buy’ results

People are not interested that your charity has just been awarded some money, opened an extra building or launched a new project. They are interested in what changed as a result.

– How many more people will attend the community centre?

– How many deaf children will now get school places?

Start at the end

Readers don’t want to know where the funding came from or what the project is about before you describe what it does.

A story about an adventure weekend for teenagers should start at the top of the mountain they’ve just climbed.

A case study of an independence project for disabled people should begin with them cooking a family dinner, painting their own front door or enjoying their first non-assisted bath.

Twist in the tale

Do something unexpected, e.g.

Amoti came to England from Nigeria to be a nanny for a friend of a friend. When she arrived at a house in London, instead of the three-year-old boy she expected to meet, she was introduced to Winston, a young Nigerian man. He gave her a cup of tea, and then he raped her.

On the paramilitary run New Lodge estate in north Belfast eight years ago, an unexpected knock on the door was not always a welcome sound. For Anna-Marie Burns her knock on the door was unexpected. But it was also a lifeline.

Turn numbers into words and pictures

– Measure numbers of people in football stadiums

– Measure area compared with the size of Wales

– Measure distances between London and Paris

– Measure prices compared with Mars Bars

Be creative when you quote statistics e.g.

NO It weighs 3 tonnes
YES It weighs the same as a London bus

Find ideas for number quotes at www.numberquotes.com

Part 2 of this article will follow next month.

(Some of these ideas were sourced thanks to charity PR expert Carol Ann Walters.)

I originally wrote this article for Fresh Business Thinking

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