My Inside Story: How Copywriting is Helping Me Relieve Hunger in My Community

Will Newman

Did you ever go hungry as a child?

I did.

When I was young, growing up with a very dedicated mother and an in-and-out-again father, there were several times I experienced what’s now euphemistically called "food insufficiency."

I hate that term. It ignores the reality of the loneliness and isolation children feel when they go hungry.

I remember at six years of age eating mashed potatoes for dinner. And sandwich-spread sandwiches for lunch. Nothing else.

I remember at eight having to stay home from school because my mother didn't have any food for my sister's and my lunches. (My father had long since left.)

Now, don't feel sorry for me.

My experience as a young boy has led me to a new "job" I'm gladly writing for free.

You see, I live in a rural mountain community. And rural America is poor America.

The town I live in — for all its charm and endearing qualities — is poor. The Donors Choose website ranks my town as having “very high poverty.”

How does this express itself?

95% of the children in my elementary school qualify for free or reduced meals. (The number’s so high, our superintendent/principal qualified us for a grant so all children receive free breakfasts, lunches, and snacks.)

Our kids are getting fed at school. But what can you say about a little kindergartner — and I'm serious about him being little — who goes through the breakfast line three times?

He’s not experiencing food insufficiency. He's hungry!

So, a year ago, my Rotary club undertook what’s called a Backpack Food Program.

This is where children in our school can bring a backpack of easily prepared foods home for weekends when they're not receiving school meals.

This isn't the place to go into details, but my community needs this program.

This will be an expensive program. We’re now at the stage where we’re seeking both short-term and long-term funding from a variety of sources.

And who did the committee choose to write the fundraising letters to those sources?

As the committee said in appointing me, I was a natural.

To be honest with you, when I started copywriting, I never thought I’d be writing fundraising copy. Financial first. That gave way to alternative health.

About 10 years ago (I think), I ran across an AWAI program that caught my attention. Back then it was called something like, "Writing for the Fundraising Market."

[Now AWAI offers two programs which cover different niches of “fundraising” copywriting: Copywriting for Nonprofits and Copywriting for a Cause: How to Profit as a Writer and Make a Difference in the World.]

When I first saw that Writing for the Fundraising Market program, I knew that was what I yearned to do. It took time getting to where I can now write effective fundraising copy. It was worth the wait. And worth taking the time learning the lessons in the AWAI fundraising program.

I learned a tremendous amount from this program about how the great fundraising copywriters are able to touch people's hearts to loosen their pocketbooks.

One of the things I learned, I hope I demonstrated here.

Statistics are important in proving the need. But stories — like the brief story of a hungry skinny kindergartener — touch the heart.

Now, don’t feel sorry for me and my early experiences with hunger.

Don’t even feel sorry for the kindergarten boy or his schoolmates.

Instead, join me in celebrating that AWAI is teaching copywriters how to write meaningful fundraising copy and harness the power of the word to make the world a better place.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the power of your words to do good in the world and raise funds that can make a difference. Do you have an interest in fundraising or cause copywriting? Comment below and tell us your thoughts.

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Published: December 15, 2016

20 Responses to “My Inside Story: How Copywriting is Helping Me Relieve Hunger in My Community”

  1. Will, I recently wrote a fundraising letter for a retreat for grieving parents. What a feeling of fulfillment and helping! I love writing these kinds of letters!

    Guest (Wayne Winkle)December 15, 2016 at 1:06 pm

  2. Hi Will This is right up my alley. I belong to the Redding Breakfast Lions Club in CA. We have adopted a poor school. Where most kids are on the free meals and are sent home on the weekend with food. Sad to see these little ones in such bad situations. We are trying to work at more fundraising. I am signed up for the course and still trying to get through other courses. Have built a website for the club, which is informative and bringing modest funds, hoping to improve that in 2017.

    Mary StephensonDecember 15, 2016 at 1:55 pm

  3. Hello Mr Will Newman,

    True friends offer always true lessons.I like children as much as you have many times told me working for about 25 years with them.A healthy world needs healthy thinking people.We must help children to recognize the significant points in life.To be kind,be sincere,be helpful,be caring and to be prosperous are the very important aspects we must focus on while educating children.WE OWE IT TO THE NEXT GENERATION.
    Sincerely, Ali Rely.

    Guest (ali rely)December 15, 2016 at 2:42 pm

  4. Yes my name is crystal Spence I have a very unique story to tell and im only 36 off n on for over 30 years I was molested raped by others took advantage of. Was awreck . I was verbally n mentally abused physical and spiritually. I was told at 24 I had brain damage n again in 2008 I was borderline mentally retarded learning problems ive been on disability ever since 2008 but ive worked part time to try to get my life bk. I'm making it.if I had money id do ur program sincerly yours crystal spence

    Guest (crystal spence)December 15, 2016 at 4:40 pm

  5. I had a similar experience re: potatoes.
    I relate my time with potatoes to being a scene in Forrest Gump: garlic potatoes, refried potatoes, baked potatoes, mashed potatoes and then mainstay of the Great Potato vs the Great Shrimp.

    So dear to my heart will be writing for this segment. Each day that goes by I wish that I was ready for it...but, admittedly, I'm not.

    Thanks for all you are doing. There is so much to be done in this sector.

    Debbie DDecember 15, 2016 at 6:45 pm

  6. I relate a time in my past with The Great Potato as one from the scene in Forrest Gump: mashed potato, refried potato, baked potato, garlic potato -- and on and on.

    So, this area is dear to my heart and one that I will be pursuing once I'm ready. Admittedly, I'm not though. I'm only on the third chapter of the Accelerated.

    Thank you for all you do in this sector, Mr. Newman, there is so much to do.

    Debbie DDecember 15, 2016 at 6:54 pm

  7. Recently, I wrote a letter inviting people to fundraise for the completion of our church. Two of the three people that I contacted came and the chief guest made a 7 figure contribution (we have a weak currency). See, construction has taken us more than 10 years, and we had almost run out of people to go to. And, if they happened to turn up, they would donate in the realms of 5 figures or 6 figures. 7 figures was a big one. Am grateful to AWAI.

    Christine MulemeDecember 16, 2016 at 3:05 am

  8. I have contributed for years to charities trying to feed people in America and in other countries. I then receive another request that I give more, even monthly. I am not thanked for my contribution, I am just put on a list of people to contact for money because I am a proven contributor. I am 73 years old and getting cranky, lately when I am not thanked and I am sent another request because I gave, I throw it away or delete it and I cancel monthly. Can't someone get a clue? Grateful! Simple!

    lr2003December 16, 2016 at 12:36 pm

  9. Hello and thank you for your email. While I commend you for what you are doing, I would be remiss not to ask you to don a megaphone and speak to America. As child poverty and hence hunger is an epidemic. Children go hungry in other countries, and quite a few factors, political and economic contribute to the issue. But it is quite a disgrace and an embarrassment for children to go hungry and uncared for in the richest country in this world.

    [FROM WILL: You get no argument from me. Unfortunately, there isn't a megaphone big enough to cut through indifference. So we all must rely on those who care and want to help so we can make a difference. Thank you for your comment.]

    Guest (Radwan Saade)December 16, 2016 at 3:45 pm

  10. I would like to have more information about these 2 subjects: fundraising or cause copywriting.

    I have reached an age which these 2 subjects would be of more interest to me.

    I have read the project you had available a couple of years ago, but now I have no one to discuss my problems with!!

    I would love to have more information available!!

    Carol Shier

    Guest (my inside story fundraising or cause copywriting)December 16, 2016 at 5:10 pm

  11. Hi Will a very well written. I can't say I ever went hungry, but there wasn't alot to eat. i grew up in the east and on a farm. We had food because we grew it, but in the winter there wasn't any fruit for my parents couldn't afford it. I feel for you I came from the same era. thanks for writing enjoyed it brought back memories.
    Rick Hamilton

    Rick12345December 16, 2016 at 11:39 pm

  12. I definitely can relate to going as a child. I grew up in very poor farm family, and we had days where we had no food at all.
    Believe or not there were those that had less than we did. I even let one of our chickens get stolen; so a family he, and my father got mad me at first. He then thought about, and knew he would have probably done the same thing; because he was a very generous man.

    [FROM WILL: Thank you for this insight into generosity that flows from understanding.]

    Guest (EG Lynn)December 17, 2016 at 8:40 pm

  13. I always appreciate your candor. You bring it to everything you write. I hope one day I will able to bring my own to my writing.

    AprilleDecember 19, 2016 at 8:16 am

  14. Will,I to can relate.I was a teachers Aide for a pre-k teacher a year ago, a little 4 yr. Old girl would have to eat a very small lunch her mother packed for her, it was always the same every day.A little round Peanut butter and jelly sandwich and half a banana and Ice tea to drink. Sometimes the tea would leak out of the cup and her food would be wet. So sad to watch her eat it, knowing that's all she had.Would love more info. On programs. New Member to AWAI.To help Our Community.Thanks!

    Cindy HDecember 21, 2016 at 1:26 pm

  15. It's something that you touched on a subject that my brother and I were talking about today. We never went hungry, but we ate some things that we didn't like that filled us up. Also I'm taking the copywriting course in order to help with my writing venture. I apply for grant monies for various non-profits. My client exclaimed that the latest article was the best yet!

    ValrieFebruary 4, 2017 at 10:17 pm

  16. Does environmental concerns run in that kind of niche area? Since at least junior high I've seen the legacy of people's relationship with Nature. Even if you ignore climate change, there is so much other things wrong we do. I'd write for doing something about that if I could. We have to have a healthy world to live on, too. I could easily write your ears off on this, I suppose.

    [FROM WILL: Yes, Tamara, environmental concerns are a huge part of fundraising. My guess is you receive mail right now from environmental groups seeking help. All those were written by copywriters. Good luck!]

    Tamara KratzerMarch 9, 2017 at 1:11 am

  17. Well done, Will! More than ever I would like AWAI to show me how to be as effective as you. Keep on posting your letters!

    Guest (Vic)April 7, 2017 at 9:33 pm

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