I have always said that fundraising is very similar to sales. It’s all about influencing people to buy in to an idea and change their behavior. It’s about finding a way to identify their internal, felt needs and show them how your organization (or product) can help meet those needs.

That’s why I study sales. While the motivations might be different, the principles are largely the same: convincing people to act.

Copywriting is a critical area in our fundraising efforts. Whether it’s direct mail, email, or even what we’re presenting on social media, there are fundamental principles that can make a huge difference. 

Recently I saw a long thread on Twitter from Alex Garcia (@alexgarcia_atx). He did a pretty deep dive on copywriting tips he identified from studying Apple’s copy. If you’re looking for best practices, it might be wise to start with a company that’s not only the biggest in the world, but also has been effective in changing culture.

Here are my top 3 takeaways from out of the 13 Alex listed in his thread:

Write for scanners. 

76% of website visitors are scanners. Apple follows three rules when writing for this:

  • Big headlines to showcase one idea
  • Use sub-headlines to entice scanners to read
  • Use the inverted pyramid for paragraphs (biggest benefit to smallest)

Apple makes reading their copy effortless. They use short paragraphs. Short sentences. And simple words. Many times you’ll notice Apple starting sentences with “and” or “but.” 

Sure, it’s not traditional. But, it’s easier to read. Easier to understand. And makes digging through sales copy a breeze.

Their goal is to get visitors to keep reading.

I have seen many times in direct mail and email long paragraphs and not enough headlines. This is not 1970. We live in a world where people don’t have time or attention span to sit down and read a lengthy letter. They’re scanning for the most important points. So make them stand out with bold text and big headlines.

Just like in this piece, when I’m writing copy for direct mail, email, or web I will highlight the main points with bold text. If they only read the bold text, will they have a complete picture of what we’re asking them to do?

Use power words. 

Power words like “you, your, imagine, new” are used frequently throughout their sales copy.

Power words help the consumer picture themself with the product. Apple used the words “you” and “your” 110 times in their copy for the iPhone 5.

This is something we talk about frequently in our on-air fundraising, but the principle holds true in our copywriting. It’s about THEM, not us. THEY are the hero. THEY are meeting needs. Put your reader or listener in the place of imagining themselves in the center of your mission

In our case, the power words include things that also create urgency and action. “Please give right now, meet this critical need, you are needed today…” 

Don’t beat around the bush and expect that they will decipher your hints. Be direct and tell them what you are asking them to do.

Focus on one idea. 

Each Apple headline focuses on one idea. It draws all attention and awareness to that benefit.  By keeping the focus on one idea, Apple is able to communicate its message effectively.

Ask yourself this question: “If my reader comes away with one thought from this letter, what would it be?” What’s the main takeaway? 

Often, in an on-air fundraiser, at the end of a break, before we play a song, I’ll circle back around to the main thought of that break. “Here’s what we’re asking you to do…” 

People are busy. Attention is a valuable resource in today’s world. Catch their attention quickly, then don’t disrespect that attention by wasting it. 

These are by no means the only tips for successful copywriting, but they certainly are important wisdom to include in your playbook as you are writing copy for fundraising appeals.

By the way, Alex Garcia has a daily email with marketing tips. I have subscribed and so far, it’s good stuff. I encourage you to take a look. https://www.marketingexamined.co