Copywriting for nonprofits can be great for your portfolio—and your personal fulfillment. But nonprofits are one of the most challenging clients to write for. How do you get their message across and compel people to take action when writing for a nonprofit?
As you know, conveying the benefit to the consumer so they will take whatever action you want is crucial to crafting an effective message.
The tricky part when writing for nonprofits is that the benefit belongs to the organizations that are raising funds, not the people (your audience) who make the donations.
So, how do you craft compelling copy for nonprofits? There are a couple of things to consider.
Consider the Benefit to the Donor
One of the most effective elements you’ll ever write in any copy is the benefit to the consumer. What do they get out of taking the action you want them to take? What’s in it for them?
The first thing to do is to think through whether you can come up with any benefits for the donor. These might be things like “making their community safer for their children,” “reducing the chances of developing Alzheimer’s later by trying to find a cure now,” or something along those lines.
Unfortunately, coming up with that benefit to the consumer is very difficult when it comes to nonprofits. By and large, nonprofits are asking for money, donations, or volunteers…basically, they’re asking for help. What big, powerful benefit does someone get from offering help?
When you’re writing for nonprofits, you need to consider this question for a while. It’s tempting to just answer, “Well, they’ll feel good!” But just “feeling good” isn’t an especially compelling benefit. Bear in mind, too, that if the only benefit is “feeling good,” there are a million and one other nonprofits that can make donors feel just as good.
So, what is it about the nonprofit you are writing for that is different? What does your target audience get out of helping besides a good feeling? And it doesn’t have to be a mug or tote bag (though it could be). What is your nonprofit’s unique selling proposition (USP)?
Do donors get personal letters from people they help? Do they get physical photos of schools they’ve helped build? Does the nonprofit give a higher percentage of each donation to the cause than any other in its industry, thereby guaranteeing that the donor’s money is better used?
What’s the end result of the donations? Does donating to a kindergarten program help to keep kids in school and out of trouble throughout their lives, thereby helping the community as a whole?
This is, very clearly, not an easy question. But the more you think about it the better you’ll get at finding those deep, unique benefits. Also, you’ll probably want to try different messages at different times of the year and with different audiences. A homeless shelter is going to have a very different message at the height of summer than it is in the depths of winter.
It’s not simple to come up with effective benefits but working for nonprofits can be some of the most emotionally rewarding work you do. It’s challenging and, truthfully, it doesn’t generally pay well versus for-profit organizations, but it can be deeply fulfilling to know that the words you’re writing are helping to truly make a difference in peoples’ lives.
Keep ruminating on those benefits and trying different angles. Just like anything else in the nonprofit world, the key is persistence.
Get to the Emotion
Next, look at what stories you have to tell about your nonprofit and what emotions you can elicit.
Can you tug at people’s heartstrings? Stories can be great for this; telling a detailed story about someone/something that the donation will benefit can work wonders.
Or can you shock people with reality? Look for a fact or truth that is both surprising and gets to the heart of your message. Maybe something like, “You spent $4.65 on a latte yesterday. If you spend that on Sarah today, you will save her life.”
Most people spend their days on autopilot. When you’re copywriting for a nonprofit, you’re looking to break through that and get them to feel something about what you’re putting in front of them.
It’s not an easy task, but it’s certainly a worthy one.
Your Turn! Have you written copy for a nonprofit? Or have you seen particularly good copy written for a nonprofit? Let us know in the comments below!
Last Updated on September 6, 2023