Are you getting towards the end of the year and just totally scratching your head on what you’re going to write to make people want to give to you?
Once I saw a book on the shelves in a bookstore that was called, I believe, “How NOT To Write a Novel” and I picked it up out of curiosity. It was full of horrible examples and not a single good one. I put it back quickly and ran away from the shelf. I could FEEL my writing getting bad just by reading a couple of pages.
Don’t listen to anyone who says you can learn to write better by reading bad writing. If this were true, the world would be full of incredible writers, when we know that incredible writing is actually the exception, not the rule.
So, in service to you, writing your appeal, please read an excerpt from SOFII’s file on the marvelous copywriting of Indra Sinda, for Amnesty International in 1992. (He was voted one of the top 10 copywriters of all time).
Should we give up?
The pictures on this page are upsetting.
Normally, we wouldn’t publish them. Our advertisements purposely stay away from violent or horrific pictures.
When we publicized the murders of street urchins by Brazilian and Guatemalan police, we spared you the sight of children with their tongues ripped out and eyes burned from their sockets.
When we wrote about Iraq’s use of chemical weapons against Kurdish civilians, we deliberately did not use the photographs that make our volunteers cry.
We at Amnesty have no choice but to look at these pictures. and hear the stories that go with them.
A million failures.
Were we naive to imagine we could make a difference?
In the last thirty years, things have not got better, but worse.
In 1961, we believed, didn’t we, that the world would never tolerate another genocide? Since themn we’ve had Suharto, Pol Pot, Idi Amin and Saddam Hussein.
We’ve had Emperor Bokass who stocked his fridge with human heads. For every prisoner freed, thousands are still in prison. For every person plucked from the torturers, thousands suffer agonies beyond our imaging. For every life saved, hundreds of thousands have been lost.
Between then, Suharto, Pol Pot, Idi Amin and Saddam Hussein have executed and tortured to death more than a million people. For Amnesty that’s a million failures. All we’ve done in the last thirty years is bail a few buckets from a sea of human misery.
Should we give up?
This is just a small excerpt of his writing, but I want you to pay attention to two things.
He starts his title of the article/ad in the newspaper with “Should We Give Up?” and if we’re honest, we’ve all thought that at one time or another, but none of us reading it, anyway, actually DID give up. We still keep striving.
He writes in short paragraphs. He shows terrible pictures. And he admits failures. Most nonprofits are too afraid to admit their failures, too afraid to say, Yes, the problem DOES seem unsolvable. Yes, we have had a couple of successes but MILLIONS more people are suffering than we can deal with.
It almost makes you root for the organization because they seem like an underdog, trying to right injustices against an ever-streaming wave of tyrants.
I typed this letter up in a website called “750words” which analyzes the word choice, the mood, time orientation and other things and came out with these results to show you.
Why not put your appeal letter to the test at 750words?