Flickr: Vivian ChenDespite the emphasis on content marketing for nonprofits—crafting the right content to motivate each specific group to take the action you desire— to be distributed where they are (the right place) when they are there and likely to act (the right time)—there’s one important ingredient left out of the discussion time and time again. Copy editing—checking for spelling, grammar, consistency and accuracy.

So many of you have shared your struggles to find time to create relevant content for prospects and supporters who expect even more—that content be customized to their past actions, habits and preferences (just like the product suggestions Amazon serves up based on prior searches and purchases or the way The New York Times website suggests articles to me based on what I’ve recently read).

You’re striving to meet these expectations, recognizing that relevance is the way to spur action. But….


Nancy Schwartz in Copywriting | 4 comments

10 Steps to Becoming a Better Writer

Select that one thing (among the many things) that will make a significant difference and that you want to do better. Then start doing it right now on a regular basis.

For most of us (including me), it’s a no-brainer. That one thing has to be be writing. Stronger writing is the one and only path to nonprofit content that motivates people to listen and act. It’s the skill set behind every effective nonprofit campaign ever crafted and one you can always take to the next level.

I dare you to learn to write better.


Nancy Schwartz in Copywriting | 3 comments
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Eureka! The sharp folks at Marketing Experiments have shared this crystal-clear matrix to help you determine how long your fundraising or marketing copy should be for greatest impact.

As with all marketing “formulas,” there’s a lot of “it depends” here. But these are the three main elements that should guide the length of your copy, says researcher Bob Kemper: READ MORE

Nancy Schwartz in Copywriting | 4 comments

Reader Favorites to Power Up Your Nonprofit Communications in 2010This year saw the explosion of social media, online video and mobile content. We’ve friended, tweeted and absorbed more content on the web in 2009 than ever before. This means there’s more content competing for your audiences’ attention, so getting the basics right is an absolute imperative.

Take a look at this list of 2009’s most popular Getting Attention articles for insight into mastering your core marketing components in 2010 and beyond.

1. This Creative Brief Template Helps Ensure Powerful Copy and Design

Taking the time and energy to craft a thorough summary of your goals, preferences and needs for a writing or design project will save time and money, and ensure you get the results you envisioned.  This article and template give you everything you need to succeed.

2.  Nonprofits’ Most Missed Marketing Tool — Email Signatures

Crafting your email signature to feature key information about your organization is a simple and inexpensive way to communicate your message to your contacts. Read this article to learn what works best.

3.  How to Design an Effective Marketing and Communications Budget (Case Study)

More than ever, it’s vital to have a plan and budget to guide and support your marketing efforts.  Dive into this article to learn how to outline a budget that will help you accomplish your goals.

4.  5 Steps to Great Graphic Design for Your Nonprofit

Finding the right graphic designer or team is challenging. But now there’s help: This article breaks the selection process down into five easy steps for developing strong relationships with the right designers. This is a proven path to design work that conveys the essence of your org while captivating your audiences.

5.  How to Write a Letter to the Editor that Gets Published and Read

A letter to the editor is great alternative to a news story for nonprofits, giving your org the chance to state an opinion, offer an alternative viewpoint, or move someone to action, in your own words. Here are 10 proven guidelines for letter to the editor success.

P. S. Don’t miss out on in-depth articles, case studies and guides to nonprofit marketing success — all featured in the twice-monthly Getting Attention e-update. Subscribe today.

Flickr photo: go-mel


Amy Kehoe in Branding and Messages, Case Studies, Copywriting, Getting Attention, Graphic Design, Media Relations and Press, Nonprofit Communications, Planning and Evaluation, Recommended Resources | 1 comment
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A List of Jargon You Love to Hate--Don'ts for Effective Nonprofit Marketing CopyWriting more clearly and succinctly is the basic that should be #1 on every nonprofit marketing to-do list this September.

Here’s a list of jargon you love to hate.

Don’t forget to put the Getting Attention anti-jargon guidelines to work today.

Get everything you need to know on nonprofit marketing via the in-depth case studies and articles featured in Getting Attention e-updates. You’re missing out on key guidance if you read this blog, but not the e-updates. Subscribe today!

Nancy Schwartz in Branding and Messages, Copywriting, Nonprofit Communications | 2 comments

Avoiding Jargon for Stronger Nonprofit Marketing CopyThe Chronicle of Philanthropy has just published a powerful trio of anti-jargon articles, and I couldn’t be happier.

You see, I’m a “less is more” person in general. Take one look at our home, and you’d know it. But most of us aren’t that way by nature.

Proof? When I talk simplicity in advising client orgs on their communications style, I almost always get nods of absolute agreement. Yet, 8 times out of 10, when I’m seeking input on a positioning statement or new home page content, what I get back is long-winded, convoluted edits and additions.

Most frequently, it’s those very changes that (if maintained, and I do everything I can to ensure they’re not) undermine the ease of digestion that’s increasingly important in today’s nonprofit marketing landscape. Think about it this way: When you fail to shape content to be accessible to your base, your org implies it doesn’t care about reaching and engaging them. And audiences pick right up on this: If you don’t care about them, how can they care about your organization?

Writing clearly, accessibly and succinctly shows the utmost respect for your audiences. Here’s how:

  • Write for your audiences, not for your colleagues, board or funders. Content has to be accessible.
  • Maintain a list of jargon you’ve used in the past, and is common in your field (hat tip to Lucy Bernholz).
  • Before you send content around for review, put it aside for a day or more.
  • Come back to it and simplify; aiming to cut by 1/3 or more (Word’s word count tool is a great help here), and strip out the jargon. Add new contenders to that jargon list.
  • Pass the copy on to your jargon-hating editor (a willing spouse or colleague out of your department works best, objectivity is a must) for editing.
  • Revise and cut again, then distribute for approval.

In the long term, crafting a specific style guide (including a jargon defense strategy) for your colleagues and training them on it is the best way to ensure your org’s content will be on target all around. It’ll take some time but will generate real ROI. Promise.

Here are two mini-guides to doing it right:
Five Tips for Writing Nonprofit Marketing Copy that Works

Five More Tips for Nonprofit Copywriters

Get everything you need to know on nonprofit marketing via in-depth case studies and articles featured in Getting Attention e-updates. You’re missing out on key guidance if you read this blog, but not the e- updates. Subscribe today!

Nancy Schwartz in Branding and Messages, Copywriting, Nonprofit Communications | 1 comment

Your Nonprofit's Message Platform Association Staffer Asks What's a boilerplate, and where does our mission statement fit inI heard recently from Sarah Sturm, an editor with the Forest Landowners Association. Like many staff members with nonprofit organizations, she wears multiple hats, including the nonprofit marketing chapeau.

Here’s Sarah’s question: "I define boilerplate as a ‘who we are’ statement as opposed to the mission statement which is ‘what we do.’ Is that accurate? Are there any particular elements it should contain?"

Thanks for the great question, Sarah. It’s one many folks have, but few are brave enough to ask about something they think everyone else understands! So here goes:

==> What’s boilerplate?
(from Wikipedia): "Boilerplate is any text that is or can be reused in new contexts or applications without being changed much from the original."

==> Your org should be using several boilerplates, from tagline to key messages, and mission statement: Your organization’s boilerplates include all messaging developed for ongoing use by your organization. Ideally, elements include: Tagline, positioning statement (the who we are Sarah refers to above); and key messages.

  • Mission and vision statements are also boilerplates, in that you use the same statements repeatedly, but these statements are usually more focused on internal audiences (staff, board, maybe volunteers) than the other elements of the message platform!

==> Your positioning statement (what Sarah’s referring to) is a one to three (only if they’re short) sentence statement that conveys what your org does for whom to uniquely solve an urgent need—the  value that your org delivers. Here’s a list of key components your positioning statement should  convey:

  •     Who you are
  •     What business you’re in
  •     For whom (what people do you serve)
  •     What’s needed by the market you serve
  •     What’s different about how you do your work
  •     What unique benefit is derived from your programs, services and/or products?

Here’s a positioning statement I crafted recently for a client:
"The National Association of Mothers’ Centers (NAMC) supports mothers and motherhood through its network of mothers’ centers and MOTHERS advocacy initiative. NAMC’s connection to mothers throughout the country is the core of its impact as a support and advocacy leader for the good of mothers and families nationwide. Working both at the grassroots level providing mom-to-mom support, and at the policy level to engage citizen advocates in the battle for fair treatment of family caregivers on economic, social and political agendas, NAMC is the collective voice of U.S. mothers today."

Hope that helps in getting your messages out there, Sarah!

Strengthen your nonprofit messaging with the Getting Attention Nonprofit Tagline Report. You’ll get a free copy when you subscribe to the Getting Attention e-newsletter (featuring in-depth articles and case studies on nonprofit marketing).

Nancy Schwartz in Branding and Messages, Copywriting, Nonprofit Communications | 4 comments

Easy, Free, Useful Tool for Effective Online WritingLast week I trained 25 nonprofit marketers on Writing for the Web, one of my favorite training topics. Nothing is more important in writing for the Web (or email or blogs) than writing succinct, focused, easy-to-digest copy, so I drilled down on how to do so. Try it. It’s harder than you think.

How serendipitous to discover this free (for Word users) tool this morning, which assesses how pithy and powerful your online writing really is. Word’s Readability Analysis Tool tracks:

  • How succinct and simple your writing really is (these qualities are crucial for online readability) — counting sentences per paragraph; words per sentence; and characters per word.
  • Other key “readability” markers:
    • Passive sentences (active tense a must)
    • Flesch Reading Ease Score which rates copy on a 100-point scale; higher scores indicate easy of understanding.  Aim for 60-70 at a minimum.
    • Flesch – Kincaid Grade Level scores copy according to school grade levels. A score of 7 means that a seventh grader will understand your writing. Aim for 7 or 8 to ensure a broad range of readers.

Here’s how to get the Tool on your Word 2003 toolbar:

  • On the Tools menu, click Options, and then click the Spelling & Grammar tab.
  • Select the Check grammar with spelling check box.
  • Select the Show readability statistics check box, and then click OK.
  • On the Standard toolbar (the bars with buttons and options that you use to carry out commands, at top of screen. To display a toolbar, press ALT and then SHIFT+F10), click Spelling and Grammar to pop up your readability report.

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Nancy Schwartz in Branding and Messages, Copywriting, Email and E-Newsletters, High-Impact Websites, Nonprofit Communications | 4 comments

Not to beat a dead horse, but there’s no more important content in your organization’s email and e-newsletters than the subject line.

I’ve thought and written a lot about this topic, but was struck by these imaginative suggestions from Gail Goodman, CEO of e-newsletter service provider Constant Contact:

  • Ask a question
    • Obviously, the question has to be relevant to your audiences
  • Be a tease
    • You’re not going to believe this…
  • Tell it like it is
    • The just the facts approach works best when you have a specific audience and know their interests
  • Get up close and personal
    • Use "you" in the subject line — Your gift can change this family’s life.

Lots of great ideas here for you to put to use. I urge you to experiment, but wait to complete the body of the email before you write the subject line. Review the email to identify the most compelling element; then feature that in the subject line.

Do you have other email subject line strategies to share? Please comment below.

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Nancy Schwartz in Copywriting, Email and E-Newsletters, Nonprofit Communications | 4 comments

I always pick up useful tips I can apply to marketing and fundraising copy when I read Daphne
Gray-Grant’s e-newsletter, The Publication Coach.

Using vibrant action verbs instead of the passive ‘to be’ was etched on my brain by my high school English teacher, Mrs. Hunter. But I never thought to use Find and Replace (Control key plus F at the same time when in MS Word) as an editing technique.

Here are some ways to put Find and Replace into action:

  • Build the sense of action and energy in your writing by going on a search and destroy mission for all forms of the verb "to be:
    • I hit "control + F" and type the word "is" in box. Then I hit, "find next"
    • The software then takes me methodically through my report or article, highlighting every time I’ve used the word "is"
    • One by one, I then try to replace each "is" with an action verb
    • And then, if I’m feeling energetic, I do exactly the same thing with: were, was, are, will be.
  • Increase the passion of your copy by replacing conditional tense (could, would) with future tense (will)
    • Find "could/can/would" throughout your document via "Control + F" (as above)
    • For each instance, replace the conditional with a more powerful, positive future tense – will is my favorite. With your gift, we will be able to provide food for sixty more children on a daily basis.

You can probably identify five or more problem areas editable via "find and replace." Identify (or ask your colleague or boss to do it) your most common writing gaffes and weaknesses, and figure out how to put "find  and replace" to work against them. It’s a quick, no cost, little time and fairly painless path to stronger copy.

Nancy Schwartz in Copywriting, Nonprofit Communications, Recommended Resources | 0 comments

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