Back to Blog

How to Self-Edit Your Fundraising Writing

Some things just go better together...

... peanut butter and jelly
... Scooby-Doo and Shaggy
... the Covid vaccine and your left arm πŸ’‰πŸ™‚

Writing and editing are two peas in a pod, too.

Putting words on the page is an ugly task. (You should see this blog post in its first draft. It ain't pretty. 😱) Editing, though, gets our writing in shipshape — so that we can help donors put their values into action.

To edit well, we need to set our egos aside and be open to change. Big change. Even if it means scrapping what seems to be so perfect at first.​

Self-Edit Your Fundraising (And Learn to Hate Editing Less)

 There are two approaches to self-edit your own work.

1. Developmental Editing: Here's where you look at the big picture — focusing on the content and structure to bring out the best version of your piece.

2. Line Editing: This is where you go line-by-line to tighten up sentence structure so the language is sharp and clear.

Now, the fun part. (Really, editing is rewarding!)


Developmental Editing Your Fundraising

Don't nitpick at the small details during this edit. Check your fundraising message for these high-level elements:

βœ… You present a human-size problem for the donor to solve.

βœ… Your offer is specific, shows impact, is expressed with a cost, and is a good value to the donor.

βœ… You focus on outcomes, not processes or programs.

βœ… You tell the donor why they should give now.

βœ… You show what will happen when they make a gift.

βœ… You express what's at stake if the problem is ignored.

βœ… You share a simple story to emphasize the need.

βœ… You mobilize the donor to act.

βœ… You repeatedly ask for the gift throughout the message.

If you are missing any of these elements, go back and revise.

Pro Tip
: Before editing your piece further, read it aloud. This will highlight any glaring errors. When we read silently, our brains will often compensate for missed words and other oversights. Reading aloud will expose many of those mistakes.

Line Editing Your Fundraising

Let's sharpen the language so the fundraising message is clear. Here are some elements to check:

βœ… Replace statistics with how the problem affects one person.

βœ… Delete words that are not necessary or essential.

βœ… Replace weak verbs with strong ones.

βœ… Use contractions to help your writing sound friendlier.

βœ… Remove sentences the donor is likely to skip.

βœ… Purge the jargon and buzzwords.

βœ… Cut a big word when there's an appropriate shorter word.

βœ… Break long sentences into 2 or 3 shorter sentences.

βœ… Create transitions to help with the pacing and flow.

βœ… Vary paragraph lengths and keep them 6 lines or shorter.

βœ… Be sure your call to action is compelling.

The point here is simple: Every word in your piece must earn its keep. We want the donor to understand their forthcoming impact — and we need to make it easy for them to act. 

Pro Tip
: Let your copy rest between edits. You will catch more errors and do a better job if you’re not tired, bored, or annoyed from looking at the same copy all day long. Put it away and pick it up again in the morning!

Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words. Mark Twain


While you're here...

Why not read a little more?

Here are a few blog posts you might like:

1. Do Your Fundraising Stories Give Away the Ending?

2. The 1 Forrest Gump Fundraising Secret You Need

3. How To Balance Doom & Gloom with Happy & Hopeful in Your Fundraising Appeal

4. 7 Boring Ways to Transform Your Fundraising


The Fundraising Writing Newsletter

Every week we send a letter about fundraising, writing, donors, and life to smart fundraisers like you.

We share fresh, practical donor communication tips and resources... and some silliness too.

It’s free. Unsubscribe whenever you want.

We love when good things arrive in our inboxes. If you do too, subscribe today.