Sanford Institute of Philanthropy Blog

How to Make Your Writing Sound Natural and Appeal to Donors

Writing for Nonprofits
Writing for your nonprofit can be tricky, simply because writing lasts forever in today’s digital age.

When you make a mistake in face-to-face conversations, you’re usually granted some reprieve because of your surroundings; those listening to you speak are usually able to forgive mistakes more easily. Unfortunately, it’s easy to lose some of the face-to-face understanding when you’re writing, just because your audience doesn’t have that human interaction to hang onto. They’re simply looking at words on a page.

However, there are a few things you can do to help overcome this challenge. 

Always read your work out loud

This may seem silly, and it can oftentimes feel silly when you first start reading out loud. But slowing down and reading your work aloud helps provide a more conversational tone to your writing, and it feels more “human” than simply writing the first thing that comes to mind. Reading your work aloud can make your writing feel more natural. 

But why do we care about our writing feeling natural? When it comes down to it, fundraising is all about making connections, appealing to others, and focusing on what they value most. Fundraising means that we have to be vulnerable and open about who we are serving, what our purpose is, and why our cause is so important. Robotic writing doesn’t represent the human behind the computer. Rather, it tends to feel stuffy and uninteresting. When our writing takes on a more conversational approach, it can appeal to your reader by drawing them in, just as if you were talking to them face-to-face.

Get a second opinion

The fact is that in conversations, we cannot see grammatical errors, but in writing, these errors tend to be glaring. Any mistake - both big or small - can make us seem less credible. The best way to overcome this is to always have someone else look over your writing and check it for accuracies, flow, and grammar. Even if you are a whiz at grammar, we all make mistakes and are guilty of typos. Having a coworker read through your writing at least once is a good way to ensure that many mistakes are taken care of before you publish a piece of writing.

Keep it simple and authentic

It's easy to fall into the trap that our writing needs to sound "smart" or look like it would be published in a textbook. But the fact is that readers tend to respond more favorably to simplicity and authenticity. You don't need to overcomplicate your words or fill your sentences with "fluff." Keep it simple, and be authentic. Donors, in particular, value authenticity from organizations and appreciate hearing about those stories that are unique to your nonprofit. In other words, your readers are more likely to care about the content itself, so don't worry so much about "sounding smart." Be professional, of course, but don't worry about using big words that feel stuffy and awkward. Instead, focus on telling the story, sharing the facts, and making this information more relatable to your audience.


Want to learn more about how to appeal to donors? Check out our Fundraising Academy Accelerate program!

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