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Six Insider Tips to Writing for the Fundraising Market

“The value of a man resides in what he gives
and not in what he is capable of receiving.”
– Albert Einstein

AWAI Wall of Famer Mary McNamara used to be a non-profit program director. And even though she loved the charitable nature of her work, it was still a full-time job.

She had to submit timesheets for vacations … and didn’t have the flexibility she craved.

Today is a different story. She has the freedom to do what she wants, when she wants … and she doesn’t have to fill out a request form to take time off. What’s more, she has plenty of time to devote to her children

She’s still helping good causes, but now she’s doing it using her writing skills. The money’s great, too. Mary earns more as a freelance fundraising copywriter than she did working 45+ hours a week as a non-profit program director.

If helping others – while earning a great income – is something you’re interested in, then like Mary, you might want to specialize in writing for copy for the fundraising marketplace.

Here are six tips from Mary on how to thrive as a fundraising copywriter:

  1. Create a portfolio. All you need are three samples. Says Mary, “Only once have I had a client ask me for more than three samples.” If you don’t have samples, create them. Re-write the fundraising appeals you get in the mail. Or write an appeal letter for a local charity.
  2. Avoid using guilt. Too many beginning fundraising copywriters use guilt to try and convince donors. No one wants to feel guilty. For example, “While you’re sitting in your nice home, 20,000 children are hungry and on the streets.” Instead, use the emotion of benevolence. Most people want to help others. So connect them to the work that’s being done. Make the organization transparent.
  3. Tell a good story. Most fundraising appeals use storytelling as a way to emotionally connect donors to the person receiving the gift (donation). Make sure your story is about the people you’re helping and not the organization itself. Get to the heart of the story right away and don’t drag it out. Make it easy to understand, so the donor connects with it emotionally in a very short time. One way Mary knows she’s done a good job telling the story is when her client calls her after reviewing her copy and says, “I had to grab a box of tissues while I was reading your copy!”
  4. Know your audience. The best way to do this is to do actual volunteer work. You can also talk to the staff at the organization you’re writing for. Get on mailing lists of other non-profits.
  5. Be professional. It’s surprising, but many of the freelancers in the fundraising niche treat it like a hobby, not a business. And because they feel they’re just “helping out,” they think they can treat the project in a more casual way. Many will miss deadlines, while others may not even proof-read their work. A professional work ethic, combined with the training you’re getting through AWAI, is a recipe for success. Plus, you’ll stand head and shoulders above the competition.

Bonus Tip #6 – Mary’s secret to landing a steady stream of assignments. The best way to land fundraising assignments is to go through a direct-response marketing agency that specializes in non-profit organizations. The majority of these are located in Washington State. Go to dmaw.org to get more info.

Follow Mary’s tips for success, and you’ll get your fundraising copywriting career off to a great start … earning a great living while helping others and making the world a better place.

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: December 18, 2008

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