This is a short story about feelings.
Back in my younger days, I was a theater person.
I mean, I still feel like a theater person, but as an audience member. Then, I was a performer. As a little girl, my dream was to be a ballet dancer. Watching ballet can still make me cry – just for the sheer beauty of it!
Then I got hooked on community theater. I kept at the theater thing in college and a few years beyond. Then I started working in a theater and no longer had time to DO theater. Life is funny like that, isn’t it?
But that’s not what I’m writing about.
I’m really writing about feelings.
I’m actually writing to you about what it takes to communicate well with your donors. But bear with me a few minutes while I get there.
In college, I got to play some great roles. But when I was the mother in Six Characters in Search of an Author… well, that was a whole different experience.
As Kate in Taming of the Shrew (there’s a picture to give you a laugh), I had a few magic moments when I held the audience in the palm of my hand. POWER!
I felt a lot of different things playing different roles.
But Six Characters…
Well, I’ll put it this way: one night after a show, a friend came up to me and said simply, “Never let anyone do that to you again.”
He was right. I was a wreck. Living way too deeply into the character. It cost me.
The cost of good fundraising writing – feelings
And that’s what I’ve been coming to with this wandering post today.
Really good fundraising writing asks something of the writer, too.
When I sit down to write a thank you letter, I can’t just toss off the usual words in a slightly different order and be done with it. If I want to reach people’s hearts, I know I have to use my own.
I was doing some writing on a weekend and my husband suddenly saw what I looked like at work. “Are you ok?” he asked, concerned.
And I was… mostly.
When we ask people to give from their hearts, we need to use our hearts, too. To find the words that move people, we need to feel.
That’s the magic of fundraising though. It’s so much less about money and so much more about humanity. We connect through feelings. You’re not going to argue your way into a gift!
For me, this is what helps:
Quiet – or usually, music. The right music can both bring emotions to the front and serve as a filter to the world.
But you’ll probably need space to concentrate, without interruptions. Every small interruption is like ripping me away. It hurts!
So if you don’t work in a space alone, let your colleagues know what you’re doing and why you need to be in the cone of silence.
Time – to think about feelings. Which ones am I hoping to share? What feelings were the people I’m writing about feeling? That’s why, when I’m interviewing someone, the questions may seem a bit random, or at least out of order. I’m not looking for facts as much as feelings. Facts, I can get later if I even need them.
And courage – to try things that may not work. To venture into areas that are new to me. To put myself in shoes that rationally, I’d rather not have to be in, like the mom of a very sick child.
Fundraising is writing from the heart. When you write for fundraising you become a bridge – from the people with a need to the people with a heart.
And isn’t it wonderful how much we humans can feel?
So your job, if you’re acting as that bridge, is to be vulnerable enough to feel. It can be hard sometimes. But keep in mind what a privilege it is to be that bridge!
So begin by worrying less about tactics. Begin by feeling. Bring your heart. Bring your compassion. Bring your humanity.
The technical stuff you can always fix later.