Published on October 14, 2014 by

Are you guilty of fundraising copy from hell?

I settled down with a big pile of direct mail one evening last week. I’d gotten a little behind in reading it all.

So I sat on my comfy couch. I opened the first envelope. Newsletter. Oh goody. This was a new charity I’d donated to so I wanted to know what they’d been doing.

Until I scanned the first article which had these phrases (meaningless jargon bolded):

“long-term, integrated community development projects”

access to life-changing programs to empower people”

Ah no, I’d just entered copywriter’s hell.

So I opened another envelope. Newsletter no. 2.

The first paragraph of the CEO’s message contained:

“exciting news” (oh goody)

subject to due diligence (erm, that’s not exciting)

stakeholders informed of this intention (zzzzzzz)

So what was the exciting news? A merger of two organisations. Important for the organisation. Hardly scintillating for donors.

Any word of how this would affect beneficiaries? Well, there was this:

“The merger will enable us to deliver a greater depth and breadth of innovative, quality services to everyone we support. Importantly, it will increase our capacity to invest into areas of need, including XYZ services and XYZ programs.”

This is a great example of using a whole lot of corporate speak to say absolutely ZILCH.

How will the services be improved? How are they innovative? What are the areas of need? To be fair, the bit that I rendered as “XYZ services and programs” (to keep the charity anonymous) did specify the areas of need. But it did so in such general terms as to be almost meaningless.

Look at all the examples I’ve highlighted above. Then ask yourself:

“What work does this charity do?”

Can you tell whether these charities work in welfare, youth, international aid, health, disability or faith-based services?

No, you cannot. That’s why this type of copy is meaningless.

Please, please avoid jargon like this in your newsletters. And direct mail. And email. And everything else you send out to donors!

In my next post I will publish a list of jargon I found during my evening perusal of charity mail.

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