KISS – Keep it Simple Sweetheart … with Swipe Files!

January 6, 2010

“Imitation is the highest form of flattery.” -Coco Chanel

Regular readers of my newsletter, The Grow Report, know that I am a huge fan of the online fundraising resource SOFII.

SOFII showcases exhibits from the best fundraisers in the businesses – people like Mal Warwick, Ken Burnett, Tom Ahern and Lisa Sargent.

In fact, SOFII is the nonprofit development person’s best swipe file!

Ask many nonprofit fundraisers and they’ll have no idea what a “swipe file” is.

Fortunately I began my career in marketing and sales and any good marketer worth his or her salt has developed their very own swipe file that they are constantly adding to.

So should you!

According to web terminology definitions, a swipe file is “a collection of noteworthy examples of various items of interest that can be used by a writer or editor to promote creativity or to assist in developing copy for publication.”

You’ve probably developed your own “swipe files” without even realizing it.  I’m talking about those flashes of brilliance when you managed to put onto paper exactly what you wanted to say.  Those little gems that help you along, so that you aren’t continuously reinventing the wheel.

A few weeks ago I wrote a perfect paragraph describing the new agency I’m working with – a succinct slice-of-life piece – that I’ve already resurrected several times since for other proposals and letters.

Along with SOFII, There are any number of books I turn to for openers when designing an annual campaign.

Books like Mal Warwick’s How to Write Successful Fundraising Letters feature appendixes like “Ninety Ways to use the Word “You” in a Fundraising Letter” offering phrases like “You are among the first …” or “I don’t know about you, but I …

You know.  Simple phrases that can jumpstart your brain when it’s operating in feeble mode.

I also make a practice of collecting both appeal letters that I receive from other organizations – and the thank you letters I receive following a gift.  I’d like to say that I keep them for “swipe file” purposes, but, sad to say, more often than not I keep them as examples of what not to do.

If you haven’t already made a conscious effort to create your own swipe files, there’s no time like now to start.

And the best way is by bookmarking   Go ahead.  Do it now. Once you see how valuable it is, make a donation.

For more on swipe files for the nonprofit writer, be sure to read Lisa Sargent’s excellent article:  Swipe Files Revealed over at SOFII.

A word of caution: swipe files are meant to be used as a source of inspiration, never direct copying. 

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Tracy Proctor August 29, 2011 at 2:13 pm

Love the concept of a “swipe file.” And the Bruce Barton letters (available on SOFII) are chock full of inspiration.

Pamela Grow August 29, 2011 at 4:08 pm

Totally. SOFII is such a fantastic resource.

laura July 22, 2015 at 8:50 pm

very informative but where are the templates?

Pamela Grow July 24, 2015 at 7:36 am

Hi Laura. There are no templates referenced in this post. It’s about creating your own swipe files, using SOFII and other materials as a reference point. I do have two templates, one for a fundraising appeal, and one for a thank you letter. You can find them here: and here

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