Yesterday we talked about what makes people turn around their criticism about your nonprofit when you’re speaking about your cause in person. If you haven’t read that post yet, go read it now. I’ll wait.

Are we back?

What about if you’re WRITING to people instead of talking with them (and listening to them?)


1. Remember, don’t ever tell them what to do.

Sometimes I read nonprofit brochures, annual reports, e-newsletters or appeal letters that read like this:

“All over the world, people are suffering. Even within your community, people need shelter, food or education. And people are looking to you to give back. You have the ability and the capability to make a difference. Don’t fall into the trap of indifference. Be aware of the problems around you. And donate your time to help those in need. It is your responsibility to promote a healthy future. It is your responsibility to promote our future. Without people giving back, there will be no future to enjoy.”

Even this uses the word YOU a lot, it is NOT donor-centric. Because this kind of writing is telling them what to do.

Instead, you might say,

“You don’t have to travel far to help. Look around you. You can probably find a nearby soup kitchen or a homeless shelter to volunteer your time. Or a local hospital or school in need of additional funds for supplies. Chances are it will be easy to find a way to make an impact right in your own neighborhood. Opportunities for you to give your time or money to a worthy cause are all around you. And it can be as easy as walking down the block and simply asking how you can help.”

It puts your audience in control. It allows them to see ideas, tools and encouragement to give, without actually coming out and TELLING them to do it. See the difference?

So when you’re talking about your cause, how can you make it real for people?

How can you get them to actually come in and volunteer, sign up for your newsletter, or donate?


2. Make it relevant. Talk about how this problem affects them personally, if you can. If you help seniors, or work with cancer, you can say, “We will be here for you if you need us.” You can work with enlightened self interest.


3. Make it tangible. Don’t say, “There are 130,000 homeless people in our city.” say, “When you roll down your window to give some change to that man standing on the interstate, you have just helped someone make it through the day.”


4. Make it human. You’ve got to tell the story of just one person to get people to take action. Maybe you can talk about the impact this problem has on an individual homeowner, or one little girl in your community. “We are the only community center that stays open until 10pm, to help keep kids off the streets and give them a supervised place to play.”


5. Make yourself real. You can tell stories of things that happen around the office, show pictures of flowers outside your office, or simply talk with people like you’re talking to them over coffee. As soon as your writing starts to sound like a grant proposal or a newspaper article, you’ve lost them.

These tips are taken from The Language of Trust. I’d highly recommend that you read this book. It can help you make critics into supporters for your cause.