How to get the most from your investment
Do you need a good fundraising copywriter? If your fundraising plan includes individual donors, you should have a direct mail program. The size and scale of your program may vary, but unless you can keep in contact personally with every donor, direct mail is smart.
But perhaps copywriting isn’t among your skills. And what you’ve been sending isn’t performing as you want it to. This might be time to outsource to someone with the skills you need.
But before you do that, here are a few suggestions that will allow you to get the most from this new investment.
Do your research
Where do you find a good fundraising copywriter? Go ahead and ask around. Turn to colleagues – have they used someone they like? Ask fundraising consultants you know or have worked with. If you find some likely prospects, get in touch.
Ask for samples and results. No, the writing alone cannot make your fundraising magically effective. There are so many contributors to your next mailing’s success. (Like your list, for instance.)
But good communication does matter. How you attract attention. Inspire action. Present the “why” of your request. So ask about some past successes.
That chat will also help you and your prospective copywriter understand values as well. If your goals are donor-focused and long-term and your copywriter’s are not, you might not be happy with your results.
Be clear about what you need
It takes time to get to know your organization. But the more time your fundraising copywriter needs to research the less she can spend crafting your project. Gather the information needed. Put it together in one place.
And write a good creative brief. This is the road map to a successful partnership.
Agree about the relationship
Most copywriters will be careful about defining the exact deliverables. These should be in the agreement you sign. Find out if additional pieces can be added for additional fees.
And agree on due dates and mutual responsibility. Your copywriter cannot magically present you with a great appeal on time if you haven’t provided her with the needed content when it was due. You need to hold each other to the agreed-upon schedule.
Copywriter Julie Cooper suggests beginning with a smaller project. There won’t be as much at stake, and you can get to know each other before diving into bigger projects.
If you have carefully chosen a fundraising copywriter, you shouldn’t begin by second-guessing their expertise. Trust them to know their work. Your job is to correct factual errors.
If you start second-guessing based on your personal preferences, you’ll end with a less effective piece. Here are some common objections fundraising writers encounter. Be smart. Take a look before you undercut your own success.
If you’ve chosen well, your copywriter will know what works and doesn’t work – and why.
Be respectful of her time as well. If you hire someone to write a specific appeal, don’t assume you also have a built-in fundraising consultant. Little questions, when they multiply and aren’t directly connected to the project, start taking a toll on your copywriter’s time and focus.
Or… ask for more time – and pay for it.
A great working relationship goes two ways. And your copywriter has worked hard to give you the best results. So be sure to close the loop – share your results.
I am thrilled when I get to hear how the project I’ve worked hard on performs. To be honest, I sometimes miss the excitement of opening envelopes.
If you work together again, it will be helpful to analyze them. You can learn a lot from how your donors respond! And even if you don’t, your copywriter is likely to be invested in the project.
Be kind and let her know how it went!
Know your strengths
If copywriting isn’t your strength, it makes sense to focus your attention on what you do well and what gives you the best results.
Could you be meeting with donors? Or calling them to say thanks? Consider how you spend your time.
Or… perhaps you’d love to DIY, but don’t feel comfortable yet. I went that route many years ago. My organization hired a copywriter. For a year or so. Then after seeing what she did, I was ready to try my hand.
If it’s at all possible, finding what you do well will make your work more fulfilling.
And if you’d love to outsource, but can’t afford it?
If you’re eager to learn, that’s great! But there are terrific resources out there – many even free. In no particular order, and off the top of my head, read Lisa Sargent, Julie Cooper, Clay Buck, Tom Ahern, Jeff Brooks, Pamela Grow, Sean Triner, Aimee Vance, Steven Screen, and so many other amazing people whose absence in this list is due only to my lack of brainpower!
And as you read, pay more attention to the fundraising copy that you get. Look at it first from a donor’s eyes, then your critical eyes. See what seems to work. Save what you like and experiment.
No one knows it all. We are all always learning. So join the crowd!
Speaking to donors and their desire to do good is a privilege and a joy. It’s also important if you want to build a strong base of support. If you communicate well with donors and treat them with care, you will have a steady base of support that can carry you through the tough times.