Sanford Institute of Philanthropy Blog

Writing for Nonprofits: Getting to Know Your Audience

Writing for Nonprofits
Writing can be challenging, but it’s an important part of our jobs that can’t be avoided. Between emails, donor letters, thank you notes, and presentations, writing is critical to any successful fundraising campaign. But how are you supposed to handle writing projects if you don’t feel comfortable with your writing?

Even if you don’t work in marketing, you are always marketing and advocating for your organization and those you serve, and the best way to do that is to get to know your audience and know exactly who you are talking to. Fundraising is all about getting to know your donors and appealing to the values that matter most to them. Every donor letter you write, every marketing email campaign you draft, and every tweet you send out should not only have different content but maintain a different voice to appeal to each unique audience. 

The way you appeal to volunteers, for instance, might vary from how you write to donors, simply because these two groups may hold different values or be looking for different sets of information. The voice you use in your writing can also help you appeal to different groups more effectively. If your audience is typically carefree and excited, you may want to consider using a more fun, familiar tone in your writing. On the other hand, if you don’t personally know your audience or if they’re more professional, you may choose to be more polite and professional in your writing.   

So how do you get to know your audience?

Do Your Research

Reading news articles, researching trends, and scoping out information about your target demographic is a great way to not only identify your audience but ensure that you are appealing to them most effectively. This can help you choose what to say in your writing pieces, whether these be blogs, emails, or newsletters, as well as how to convey the information in a way that will catch your audience’s attention.

Get Online

Social media is a great way to see what your audience is up to. Following hashtags, in particular, is a unique way to see what people are saying about a particular topic and can be useful for both national and local trends. You can also track comments on your page and other public posts, and every social media platform allows you to view analytics about your posts, videos, photos, and more. You can also use social media to see what other nonprofits are doing and what might be working well.

Conduct Surveys

Surveys can provide valuable insights about how things are going in your organization and are a great way to show your audience that you are open to evolving your organization. Surveys are particularly helpful after special events to see what went well and what could be improved in the future. Annual questionnaires are also great ways to check in with your stakeholders and capture their thoughts about your nonprofit.  


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