I’d like to revisit a topic I’ve written about in the past and that’s the 5 C’s of good nonprofit communication. You can think of this as a summer rerun. Some of you will remember the time networks (and even longer ago there were just a few of them) didn’t release new TV shows in the summer and we just watched reruns. But I digress….
It’s important to keep these 5 C’s in mind when you’re writing a fundraising appeal, thank you letter, update, or any type of donor communication.
Is it Clear?
What is your intention? What message are you sending to your donors? Are you asking for a donation, thanking them, or sharing an update?
Whatever it is, make sure your message is clear. If you have a call to action, that needs to be clear as well. You also want to stick to one call to action. If you ask your donors to make a donation, volunteer, and contact their legislators in the same message, you run the risk of them not doing any of those.
You want your message to produce results. Plain and simple, your fundraising appeal should entice someone to donate. Your thank you letter should thank your donors (no bragging or explaining what your organization does) and make them feel good about donating.
Use language your donors will understand (no jargon). Keep out terms like food insecurity and underserved communities. Just because something is clear to you, doesn’t mean it will be clear to others.
Is it Concise?
Can you say more with less? Eliminate any unnecessary adverbs, adjectives, and filler. Make your point right away. Concise writing doesn’t mean you need to be terse or all your print communication has to be one page. Sometimes it will need to be longer, but the same rules apply.
Nonprofit organizations like to pack a lot of information into their monthly/quarterly newsletters and annual reports, but many donors won’t read something if it looks like it will be too long.
Shorter, more frequent communication is better. This applies to the example I gave above about not putting more than one call to action in a message. You’ll have better results if you send separate messages for each call to action.
Also, most people skim, so use short paragraphs and lots of white space, especially for electronic communication.
Make all your words count.
Is it Conversational?
Write as if you’re having a conversation with a friend and be personable. Use the second person – where you refer to your donors as you and your organization as we. Remember to use you much more than we.
Avoid using jargon, cliches, multi-syllable words, and the passive voice. Is that the way you talk to your friends? I hope not.
You may think you’re impressing your donors by using jargon and big words, but most likely you’re confusing them or even worse, alienating them. Connect with your donors by using language they’ll understand.
Is it Compelling?
Is whatever you’re writing going to capture someone’s attention right away and keep them interested? The average human attention span is eight seconds, so the odds are stacked against you.
Start with a good opening sentence. Leading with a question is often good. Stories are also great.
Put a human face on your stories and keep statistics to a minimum. Start a fundraising appeal with a story that leads to a call to action.
Are you establishing a connection?
Donors are drawn to your organization because they feel a connection to your cause. You also need to establish a connection with them. You can start by segmenting your donors by different types, such as new donors, current donors, and monthly donors.
Get to know your donors better and give them content you know they’ll be interested in. Hint – it’s not bragging about your organization. They want to know how they’re helping you make a difference for your clients/community. They also want to feel appreciated. Focus on building and sustaining relationships.
Keep these 5 C’s in mind to help ensure good communication with your donors.
4 thoughts on “The 5 C’s of Good Nonprofit Communication”
Thanks for a great reminder Ann Green .
The human mind needs regular feeding of positive professional nutrients like this.
I’m going to disagree with your assertion “many donors won’t read something if it looks like it will be too long”. Especially when it comes to appeal letters – longer is better. See this excellent case study: https://sofii.org/case-study/university-of-sheffield-direct-mail-the-longer-the-better
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