From time to time, people ask me to talk to them about writing responsive copy. Usually, they allocate an hour or two – and I start thinking about how to make best use of that time. Because, of course, it takes much longer to become a good copywriter.
Let’s say you start with a good prospect. At Bluefrog, we tend to look for someone who is already very good with words, able to empathize, determined to succeed and a quick learner. They might pick up the basics of copywriting in 3-6 months. After a year or so, they’ll probably be able to work fairly independently, but the learning doesn’t stop. After eleven years or so, I’m certainly still picking new ideas.
So what can you do in an hour or two – or one blog post – to help someone acquire at least the principles of good copywriting for charities?
Well, I cheat. I start by recommending this book by George Smith. It’s a Tiny Essential from The White Lion Press – beautifully formed and will certainly get you on the right track.
And here’s another technique I’ve been trying out lately. Is it any use? You decide.
Once, when idly searching, I came across a list – in fact several lists – claiming to detail the ten most important words in advertising. Here’s one version from www.marketingsmart.gumas.com.
So that got me thinking, what are the ten most important words in fundraising? Here’s my attempt.
What do you think?
As you can see, the top few words have been chosen to drive home the idea that copy really should have a donor focus. And more than that, as the number 1 word shows, a personal focus. 'Thank you' deliberately comes before 'Please', in an attempt to convey that thanking someone for previous gifts (and proving to them that the money has been well-spent) is a good prelude to asking for a further gift.
I'm not entirely sure if 'promise' and 'proof' are exactly the right words to use but they are there to represent the sentiment that the relationship between donor and the charity should be founded on trust - and the donor should be able to see the difference their support makes.
Finally, the 'etc.' after 'generous' stands for all the other words you can use to define the donor and their importance to you. I like Tom Ahern's advice – give them a 'flattery bath'.
The principles behind writing donor-focused copy are simple, but it’s amazing how often the focus instead drifts towards what a charity wants to say. Use the words on this list enough and that shouldn’t happen.