The art of writing from the heart: 7 tips to effective not-for-profit copywriting

The art of writing from the heart: 7 tips to effective not-for-profit copywriting

Compared to profit-peckish businesses, writing for not-for-profits (NFPs) has a distinctly different process and style.

Here at RM, we’ve worked for many NFP clients over the years. And our approach gets results – every time.

Want to know how? Well, you’re in the right place.

It’s time to take the stress out of writing and focus on what you do best – changing the world for the better.

Let’s dive in.  

1. Know your audience – and their why

It’s Marketing 101 – we know.

But before you even put your fingers to the keyboard, you really do need to take a moment to think deeply about the people you’re talking to.

And when it comes to NFP writing, you want to take this fundamental step a giant leap further –into the psychology of charitable giving.

In other words, understanding why people choose to donate. Or not to donate.

Australian academic Cassandra Chapman and her colleagues’ research found that people give for nine reasons – all of which can be grouped under two umbrella terms: ‘Self-oriented giving’ and ‘other-oriented giving’.

  • Self-oriented giving is often seen in donors who give to medical, sporting and religious charities (or any other causes) that the donor aligns themselves to. Their driver is to minimise any struggle and anguish within their direct circles. 
  • Other-oriented giving is seen more frequently in donors that give to international, environmental and animal charities – causes that don’t necessarily directly impact them or their immediate circles. The driver here is to help on a global scale and give a voice to those who may not be able to speak for themselves.

Neither giving style is good, bad, right or wrong. But understanding the psychological drivers behind your audience’s why will allow you to create messaging that resonates with them deeply.

2. Turn e-motion into action – with stories

Storytelling should be the backbone of any not-for-profit marketing message. And the reason is simple: stories bring your cause to life. 

Not sure where to start? Try following this heartfelt copy formula: Humanise + share + connect + ask = contribution. 

  • Humanise the story by sharing a face and a name wherever possible. 
  • Share the subject’s experiences and the impact it has had on them – specifically and holistically.
  • Connect the story to the reader using either the self-oriented or other-oriented giving perspective we described above.
  • Ask for the support you need – clearly. Make the steps to contributing simple and obvious.

3. Focus on ‘you’ and ‘your’

Few words in copywriting have as much impact as the words ‘you’ and ‘your.’

They tell the reader you’re talking directly to them. This engages them – and helps them to relate the content back to themselves.

Simple. And so effective.

In NFP writing, other powerful pronouns to use are ‘we’ and ‘us’.

They summon the reader into the solution and show it’s a collaboration. This way they know they play an important role in a positive outcome.

4. Show them where their generosity will go

Community trust is crucial for any NFP. And as a tech-savvy and informed society, potential contributors are likely to investigate where their donations will go.

So, help to build their confidence by making this information as transparent as possible.

How? By breaking it down into a clear objective.

One of the most recognised international charity campaigns is from World Vision. For just one dollar a day, you can feed and educate a child in a third-world country.

The power of this campaign lies in it clearly showing how much to give and what that generosity will provide.

5. Choose powerful imagery

While not exactly a ‘copy’ tip – images matter too! (As much as we love words here at RM, we know that copy is only part of the picture.)

We’ve got mere seconds to grab attention. And impactful images paired with powerful copy is the best way to do that.

So, add a face and name to your cause. Or showcase the suffering, or the impact of a donation.

Perhaps, highlight the beauty of the solution your organisation helps to achieve. Or use infographics or bold statistics to draw them in.

Whatever options you choose, mixing your copy with strong imagery will capture your donor’s attention – and then likely, their heart.

6. Wrap it up with a strong call for support  

So, you’ve drawn them in. You’ve shared the story. And outlined the impact… now it’s time to ask for support.

The important points here? Be clear, direct and use action words.  

If people need to figure out for themselves what to do, or how to do it – you will lose their engagement. And therefore, their contribution.

Some examples that demand action are:  

  • Donate now
  • Volunteer with us
  • Join the fight

Assume your reader can and will help – and watch as they follow suit.  

7. Tone up your style guide

NFPs by design are heartfelt enterprises. And that passionate emotion most likely exudes from your contributors and beneficiaries too.

So, it’s important to be careful with your language and messaging.

Terminology, inclusivity and diversity are all important to consider. As well as your organisation’s overall tone and style.

So, it’s a smart idea to have a clear and thorough style guide that covers all these points.

Think of it like a filtering system that everyone in the team can pass their content through to ensure it supports the cause.

So, there you have it. Seven simple ways to overhaul your NFP copywriting.

Think you may still need a hand ensuring your messages connect with those that matter?

We can help you in one, two or THREE ways by creating an NFP-tailored writing style guide for your team, running an NFP-tailored team writing course, or writing your NFP copy for you!

We’ve got you covered, so get in touch.