How to write a swimming pool. Essential Resources for Nonprofit Copywriters

January 11, 2017

”John and I literally used to sit down and say, ‘Now, let’s write a swimming pool.”
― Paul McCartney

What if you knew that when your organization’s hot water heater died, you could sit down at your computer and write one? Your organization needs to serve 275 more kids in 2017? Not a problem. You can write it.

Persuasive copywriting is just one skill in the fundraiser’s toolbox, but I’d argue that it’s critically important. After all, everything from your newsletters, to your fundraising appeals, to your grant proposals, to your online campaign, to your website, stems from the written word.

It’s a skill-set that you should be honing on a regular basis.

How? Here are a handful of my most relied upon resources:

SOFII. The Showcase of Fundraising Inspiration. When was the last time you set aside an hour or two to peruse the latest swipe file showcases? And, if you’re still writing thank you letters for year-end gifts, don’t miss Lisa Sargent’s Thank You Letter Clinic. You’ll learn why, when it comes to donor stewardship, I always say “What Lisa Said.” The last, the ultimate, the final authority.

The Ultimate Sales Letter. Dan Kennedy. Sure, he’s a bombastic crank, but this book gets you quickly inside your customer’s (i.e. donor) head, and walks you through what you need to know to write compelling copy. Try stepping outside the insular world of nonprofit for some insights into what makes your donor tick.

Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content. Ann Handley. In the age of Internet ADD, more and more, I’m finding myself tweaking with an eye to simpler. This is an engaging guide to producing…well, ridiculously good content. One of the most useful guides I have ever read.

The Fundraisers’ Guide to Irresistible Communications. Tom Ahern says of Jeff Brooks’ succinct little guide, “I flip through it repeatedly every chance I get.” So do I.

How to Write Fundraising Materials That Raise More Money, The Art, The Science, The Secrets. Tom Ahern. This book has helped me more times than I care to count. Now, I can’t begin a writing project unless this guide from Tom Ahern is by my side.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Even if you’ve never read a single Stephen King novel in your life, you owe it to yourself to pick up this handy guide, part poignant (yet oddly hilarious) memoir, part common sense writing advice. “Story is a fossil you find on the ground, and you gradually dig it out slowly.”

Hemingway app This app does what it says it will do: make your writing bold and clear. Run your next piece through it and see if you don’t agree.

Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer. When it comes to fundraising emails, getting it opened is half the battle. Does your email subject header make the cut?

Those are my favorites…what are yours?

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