I originally published this advice about hiring a freelance copywriter in March, early in our COVID-19 experience. Now it’s November — time for year-end giving, holiday cards, budgeting and strategic plans — and the advice is more pertinent than ever. If you’re feeling stressed out trying to manage all your communications duties alone, read on.
Even before the coronavirus hit, communications professionals were some of the busiest people I know. (CNBC Make It listed “public relations executive” as the eighth-most stressful job in America last year.) Now that everyone is on lockdown, the average comms pro is underwater: crafting coronavirus-influenced messaging for their organization, joining way too many Zoom meetings, revising previously written content to better align with the times, and doing all this while trying to keep up with their regular daily work and handling a bunch of duties and distractions around them at home.
If this is you or someone in your organization, now is the time to reach out to a freelance copywriter (aka content producer).
Copywriters (like me) are here for you and can turn around projects with lightning speed right now. Hand off that new (or old) assignment while you focus on other priorities.
Your nonprofit is only as strong as the people who support you. Does your copywriting reflect this understanding?
As my friend and fundraising expert Derrick Feldmann says, people support you when they believe in a cause: Eliminating homelessness. Climate change. Animal rescue. Saving children. They believe in improving society, not in funding your organization.
Why, then, does your “About Us” web page talk almost exclusively about you?
Here’s my argument: Your copywriting has to evoke an emotional response – and About Us doesn’t mean what you think it does.
It’s Not About You
Your website gives you a chance to show potential supporters who they’ll be and what they can achieve when they join you. This will require language that creates a vivid picture in their minds of a place where “us” includes them making a difference.
Consider the following real example from a nonprofit that offers services to and advocates for adults and children with disabilities:
As America’s largest nonprofit health care organization, [Organization] is committed to the comprehensive health and wellness of the more than 1.4 million people it serves each year and is prepared to respond to the needs of the one in four Americans living with disability today with outcomes-based services for all disabilities throughout the lifespan.
This 54-word sentence reads like an encyclopedia entry, not authentic copywriting meant to move us to action. We can’t visualize what it’s like to be part of this group, and we won’t feel an emotional connection to the people who need help. The language feels clinical and cold, keeping us from feeling the strength of their belief.
It’s About Them
Now, contrast it with a page called “Who We Are” from a nonprofit that serves the families of hospitalized children:
They’ve created have a picture in my head: a sick child who needs Mom or Dad around to feel safe. I’m in that room, and “What can I do to help?” is my gut reaction. The only way this could be better is if the story was told through one family’s experience.
I like the clear language and focus on the students. How could the writing be more appealing? Would you feel the need more viscerally if this story was shared through the impact on one student?
In reality, research has shown that people respond more positively when they hear about one person in a situation than when they hear about a hundred. A large number feels overwhelming – “That’s too big a problem” – while an individual makes it easy to think, “I could help one child.”
Speak to Your
As with any communications piece, keep your audience in mind
when writing your About Us page. They don’t need or want a recitation of your
accomplishments, or the definition you put on grant proposals, or a formal business
statement. They want to feel a sense of belonging, a desire to join with you in
a cause they already have feelings about.
By the way, look at the language you use to tell your nonprofit’s
history, too, since it’s often on the About Us page. Is it focused on buildings
and organizational growth, or on an expanding ability to serve more