Life, the friend, is noisy. TV news, social media posts, and cellphone alerts—they flash all around us and clamor for our attention. Meanwhile, as a fundraiser, you yearn to cut through all that noise and get donors to focus on you, your message, and your mission.
That’s easier said than done. It’s incredibly difficult to make your message stand out . . . and you have only a few seconds (if you’re lucky!) to grab your reader’s attention before some other shiny object catches their eye.
So how do you keep their eyes on you? In short: you need to make your language simple and compelling and your design appealing.
Make your message easy on your reader’s eyes. By ensuring that they see what’s most important, right away, you have the best chance of making them want to keep giving you their fleeting attention.
Let’s look at two key elements of ensuring your story looks and sounds great—and that your organization reaps the benefits.
Write for the Skimming Reader (Donors Are Busy Too)
You’ll spend hours carefully crafting an appeal letter, donor prospectus, or email. But your typical reader will spend only a few seconds skimming it—so make those seconds count.
In practice, that means you can’t beat about the bush. Your main idea should leap off the page (and those photons collide with your reader’s eyes). That means no jargon, no run-on sentences, and no dusting off your SAT vocabulary flashcards. Instead, to draw your reader in:
- Stick to short sentences and short paragraphs (easy to read) . . .
- Use bullet points, descriptive headers, bolding and highlighting (easy to skim) . . . and
- Lean on second-person language (we humans instinctively pay more attention to ourselves—so “you” catches our eye in a way that “we” just doesn’t).
Now, oftentimes people find writing simply to be surprisingly difficult—especially when it comes to things they know well and care about. But it doesn’t have to be.
Make Your Donor Message Look Beautiful
We live in an image-based world. And all the lucid prose in the world isn’t going to convince your reader to donate if they don’t look at it in the first place. This is why top-notch design is indispensable to successful fundraising.
The details of good design vary widely by genre and medium. An email should not look like a website, nor an appeal letter like a glossy annual report. But here are two good principles to keep in mind:
- Your design should make you stand out, not blend in. That Statue of Liberty motif on red, white and blue . . . that color crayon drawing of hands and smiling faces . . . probably won’t speak to the uniqueness of your organization. Nor will using the same typeface as every coffee shop and insurance company in town. Figure out the colors, images, and details that are yours—and make them your own.
- Your design must direct attention towards your message, not distract from it. It doesn’t matter how cool something looks if it makes your words harder to read or understand. Good design uses colors, lines, shapes, and layout to guide the reader’s eye back to what’s most important.
If you’re not sure where to begin—or whether your writing and design is communicating your message in a compelling and eye-catching way—we'd be happy to take a look!