Writing for impact is both a skill and an art. If we nonprofit communicators want to persuade others, we can’t just “wing it” because we are running short on time. Our writing can’t be something we just throw together in record time, hoping people will take action.
Writing is the primary tool nonprofits use to prompt people to make a donation. But how do we best make an impact on those we seek to influence?
As nonprofit communicators, we might ask ourselves questions about our potential donors like...
Our writing should seamlessly guide our potential donor to taking the appropriate next action.
Consider these 5 elements for writing with impact:
1. Contemplate. Before jumping into writing, reflect on the purpose of the piece. Too often we get an idea and “pluck it off the tree like unripe fruit.” Instead of letting it mature in our minds, we blurt out an idea that’s only part way thought-out.
To prevent “half-baked” ideas, take time to let your idea incubate. Mindmap or brainstorm your idea. Look at it from every angle. Devote enough time to let a good idea develop into a great one. You’ll know when your idea is ripe enough to pluck.
Also, think carefully about the values and desires of your readers. Be sure to write with their best interests in mind.
2. Concise. Keep your writing tight. Use words sparingly. Technology has groomed us to expect speed and brevity. When someone drones on, we get bored and antsy. We lose interest.
William Strunk, Jr., co-author of The Elements of Style, writes this about being concise:
“Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.”
3. Clear. Without clarity, people may not even realize what we’re saying. How unfortunate to send a piece of copy or post a blog that leaves potential donors wondering what was said!
Avoid fancy, obscure, or ambiguous words. We’re not trying to impress others with our vocabulary. We want to communicate clearly.
Remember this: When you write, put yourself in your reader's shoes. Read and reread what you’ve written. Then read the piece aloud. How clear is it? A bit foggy? Or crystal clear?
Ask someone you trust to read what you’ve written. Give them permission to give you honest feedback.
4. Creative. With creativity we make our reading fun and give the reader a glimpse into the personality of you and your nonprofit. Creativity in our writing reveals our passions and our humanness. This attracts others to us.
Creativity endears us to others because through it we become vulnerable. And vulnerability gives others reason to trust us.
Be creative, but let conciseness and clarity tame your creativity. We want to be clever, but not so clever to be confusing.
Our writing should never be dry, dull, or boring. When we write, we don’t want to lead our readers up a colorless stairwell but to the glorious heights of a mountain meadow.
5. Compelling. Our writing may display all the other qualities and still lack the element that evokes action. What we write must be compelling.
What is it that you want your reader to do? How clear is their next step? Why would they even choose to take that step? What is compelling about your writing?
Think about this: we can write something we’re really proud of. We’ve put a lot of thought into it and it’s clear, concise, and creative. But unless it’s compelling, it’s just fluff. It may be “tasty,” but lacking in any “nourishment.”
Our writing must compel our readers to action. How can this piece of writing challenge or change your reader’s life?
We all want our writing to impact others in a positive way.
Writing is a primary tool of the nonprofit communicator. We write to inform, convince, entertain, persuade, and prompt others to action. And when these 5 elements permeate everything we write, we know we’re writing for impact!