How Raising Money For Charity Can Raise Your Writing Game

Successful marketing writing courses

Great fundraising campaigns can be masterclasses in powerful and emotive storytelling, as well as raising money for a worthy cause. Professional fundraiser BETH GOULSTONE shares three tips for better writing from the wonderful world of fundraising.

When I started work as a fundraiser for the New Zealand AIDS Foundation, I had a lot of questions. How can I make my charity stand out? How can I inspire donors to take action? And how can I make them feel amazing, so they’ll donate again? I’ve learned that the answer to all three is storytelling – and in learning how to be a better fundraiser, I’ve also become a better writer.

Writing tip #1: The story of one

Ditch the stuffy statistics in favour of a personal story to connect with your readers emotionally.

In the fundraising world, a single person in distress is always more compelling than an abstract group or cause. Sharing the latest stats for HIV diagnoses seems like a great way to communicate the scale of the issue, but statistics speak to ‘our head, not our heart’. Instead, If I share the story of Jack, a young man too scared to see his doctor for an HIV test, it packs more of an emotional punch. 

Focusing on the big picture can also make readers feel helpless.

‘If I have only $50 to give and you tell me about the 2 million children in the US who receive no arts education,’ says Jeremy Reis, Senior Director of Marketing and international relief organisation World Concern, ‘I no longer believe it will make a difference.’

Whether or not your goal is to raise money, make sure to balance well-researched facts and statistics with personal case studies to tug on your readers’ heartstrings.

“Great fundraising campaigns can be masterclasses in powerful and emotive storytelling, as well as raising money for a worthy cause.”

Writing tip #2: Know your audience

Your writing should be pitched at the sort of people who will read it. A 23-year-old donating $10 to a viral Facebook challenge for fun doesn’t want to receive a formal letter of thanks from the CEO. In fact, the home address they gave is probably their mum’s!

The better you know your audience, the more authentically you can connect with them.

Try crafting an imaginary profile for your average audience member. Get specific: How old are they? Where do they live? What shows are they binge-watching on Netflix? Write as if you’re speaking directly to that person and see how your writing becomes instantly more engaging.

Writing lesson #3: Keep it interesting

With over 28,000 registered charities in New Zealand, I must stay on the lookout for new angles and perspectives to combat donor fatigue and keep the interest of my supporters (and myself!).

Keep things fresh, so your writing gets the attention it deserves. Can you think of someone unusual to interview for an unexpected viewpoint? Scan the news: is there a current event that could bring relevancy to your chosen subject? Exploring new angles will engage your readers, and it’ll stop you from getting bored too!

About the Author

Beth Goulstone writer

Beth Goulstone spends most of her time writing fundraising copy for the New Zealand AIDS Foundation and Sweat with Pride. When not writing, you can find her biking, knitting, or on stage, where she is an opera and musical theatre performer.

Want to improve your writing? Browse through our range of journalism and specialist writing writing courses at NZ Writers College.

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