(With apologies to the Bee Gees …)
For six years I worked for a regional private family foundation.
It was an amazing learning experience on so many levels, including teaching me how donors respond.
In a recent post on Kivi’s Nonprofit Marketing Blog, Kivi notes that people’s hearts tend to overrule their heads.
She raises a number of good points, backed by sound research.
Yet still, nonprofit organizations have a strong propensity for the dry, didactic prose that sets no ones heart aflame.
Whenever I’ve had an annual campaign to write, I’ve always put myself in the shoes of a donor. And usually that donor is standing over the trash, opening her mail. Will the standard “Dear friend: We are writing you today to seek your support blah blah blah” letter make her pause, walk away from the trash can and pull out her checkbook? Hardly.
So I write and rewrite and write some more.
The resulting letter will be something that will make the reader either think – “It could happen to me.” “This organization deserves my support!” “Wow; they’re doing amazing things – I’m going to add this group to the charities I support” – or cry, or, hopefully both.
And then there are those otherwise savvy development folk, who have mastered the art of bringing emotion to their development writing – their annual campaign, their thank you letters, their web copy and brochures – and yet completely toss it all aside when it comes to a grant proposal.
Foundation funders are people too.
Imagine yourself as a program officer with a stack of fifteen grant proposals before you, every last one of them starting out with “We are pleased for the opportunity to submit our grant request to the XYZ Foundation in support of our youth mentoring program/mental health clinic/afterschool program/community arts organization, etc., etc.”
I well recall one faith-based organization that was funded by my foundation on a regular basis. Every time a proposal came in from this organization both of our vice presidents and the entire program staff couldn’t wait to read it. Their proposals were filled with emotion, passion and, yes, always new stories. They read like a never-ending novel of hope.
I’m sure it didn’t hurt their cause any that they’d had the same executive director for going on twenty years and her passion has never waned.
But you, too, can bring that passion and emotion, those stories, to your development writing, and – not to be forgotten – to your grant proposal writing.