How to "Customize" 7 Power Writing Secrets

Last week, you met Joanne Sullivan, one of our four 2006 Bootcamp Challenge winners. Joanne told us that one of the success strategies that made a difference in her career was focusing on a single niche. Two years ago, she chose writing for the financial markets as her area of expertise. Now, she has all the financial writing work she can handle … and she's working with some of the very best writers and marketers in the industry.

No matter which niche you choose, you'll need to apply the basic secrets of power copywriting that you're learning from AWAI. The trick … and what makes good niche writers great … is knowing how to "customize" those secrets.

Today, we're going to take a look at seven power writing secrets and demonstrate how you would use them when writing for one of the most popular niches among AWAIers – fundraising.

POWER WRITING SECRET #1: Know your prospect.

A key direct-marketing strategy in any niche is to "know your prospect." But in fundraising, you must approach this from a different perspective than you would in, say, alternative health.

Some of your fundraising prospects may actually be the same people you'd be writing to in an alternative health sales letter. However, they don't look at a fundraising letter and an alternative health letter in the same way.

When, for example, they read a letter selling an herbal product for weight loss, the thing that's uppermost in their mind is how that product can benefit them. So the emotions you need to appeal to will be based on their self-interest. On the other hand, when they read a letter asking them to donate to a political party ("Let the XYZ Party continue to protect the freedoms we Americans …") or cancer research ("Join Lance Armstrong in his fight against …"), they'll be motivated by thoughts of how their donation could benefit others. So, in that case, you'll need to appeal to their altruistic emotions.

POWER WRITING SECRET #2: Understand how to position the benefits.

Your fundraising audience will get a tremendous amount of self-satisfaction out of donating money to a cause they believe in – but you don't want to bring that to the fore in your letter.

It's great to say "Wake up tomorrow knowing that your donation has helped feed a hungry child for 3 months." But you'd never say "Wake up tomorrow feeling good about yourself because you …" – even though that feeling is a huge (unstated) benefit.

POWER WRITING SECRET #3: Connect your donor to your cause.

A very effective way to connect your potential donor to your cause is to base your letter on a celebrity spokesperson – if the connection is relevant. For example, Jimmy Carter is widely regarded as the elder statesman of Habitat for Humanity. If you know you're writing to Jimmy Carter admirers, you could say: "Join President Carter in building a better world …" Donating money will make those donors feel connected to the cause and to someone they admire.

If your cause doesn’t have a celebrity spokesperson, you can also use a true story to effectively make that connection. For example, consider people who care deeply about our endangered environment, yet feel like they can’t make a difference on their own. A compelling story can make them feel like their individual contribution is helping to protect it… that they’re “giving back” to Mother Nature … that they’re part of a bigger solution.

Here is a good example from The Nature Conservancy’s classic control:

“The bug-eyed bird on our envelope who’s ogling you with such bad temper has a point. He’s a Native American sand hill crane and you may be sitting on top of one of his nesting sites.

As he sees it, every time our human species has drained a march, and plowed it or built a city on it, since 1492 or so – there went the neighborhood.

So give us $10 for his nest egg, and we’ll see that a nice, soggy spot – just the kind he and his mate need to fashion a nest and put an egg in – is reserved for the two of them, undisturbed, for keeps. Only $10. (Watch those cranes come in to land, just once, and you’re paid back. Catches at your throat.) The cranes can relax and so can you…”

POWER WRITING SECRET #4: Strengthen the relationship.

Tightening your donors' bond to the cause will solidify the relationship and increase the likelihood that they will respond to future requests – whether or not they include a donation this time. It can be done by including a simple welcome kit in the sales package that gives "inside" information on the organization – and, at the same time, provides you with an additional opportunity to make an appeal for a donation.

Another way to make donors feel that their ongoing support is important to the cause is to give them a mechanism to indicate how they would like the organization to communicate with them in the future – perhaps with a reply card included in the welcome kit or a checkbox on the response device.

And, of course, “giving” your prospect a free gift like address labels is one of the most common ways of strengthening your bond with him. This is the Secret of Reciprocity, which simply stated means if you give someone something they will feel “obliged” to give you something back. This is a biggie … we’ll do a full article on this one secret alone in an upcoming issue.

POWER WRITING SECRET #5: Give your donor a way to "advertise" his support for your cause.

Giving your prospect a gift after he’s donated is different from giving him one before.

There's a reason PBS gives their donors coffee mugs in exchange for a donation. It's a "gift" that continues to work, year after year, despite the fact that most people have more coffee mugs than they know what to do with. But that mug works on a different level than premiums in straight DM sales. Because when it sits on the donor's desk at work, it does far more than hold coffee or pencils. It announces to the world a commitment that he's proud of. Same can be said of tee-shirts, calendars, bumper stickers and more.

POWER WRITING SECRET #6: When you thank your donor, allow her to give again.

Organizations that shy away from including an appeal for a second gift in a thank-you mailing are doing a disservice to their donors. This is a time when they are most likely to want to donate again.

For example, a Lance Armstrong Foundation thank-you package featured an image of Armstrong on the envelope. Below the mailing's thank-you letter was a reply device offering donors the option to give again.

POWER WRITING SECRET #7: Seize the day!

Create opportunities for additional copywriting jobs in the fundraising niche by keeping abreast of current events and coming up with new ideas for donor appeals.

If, for example, a report on hunger in America makes national news, you might contact the appropriate fundraising client and propose using that as an angle for a letter or postcard – which you, of course, would write.

Or if XYZ Party was just recognized for excellence in fundraising ethics, you could recommend an email campaign – which you, of course, would write – highlighting the accomplishment and requesting more money to continue their efforts to educate the public.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »


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Published: January 29, 2007

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