Donor Capeesh

“For we do not write you anything you cannot read or understand” (2 Corinthians 1:13).

Humorist Will Rogers once said, “The minute you read something that you can’t understand, you can almost be sure that it was drawn up by a lawyer.” Unfortunately, some fundraisers send confusing messages to their donors. A ministry embroiled in several controversies sent a letter to their key constituents reassuring them that everything would be alright. A savvy major donor noted that their letter, “said something without saying anything.” Peter noted that Paul’s “letters contain some things that are hard to understand” (2 Peter 3:16). Here are five thoughts to improve your communication skills.

Good communication is more than proper punctuation, grammar, and sentence structure. Ask yourself what you’re trying to say. If your thinking is fuzzy your writing will be incoherent. Clear thinking produces clear writing. When you are writing your case for support, an appeal letter, a newsletter, or a marketing piece, carefully choose words that most accurately express your meaning. Write in active voice, not passive. Replace vague words with specific words that precisely and shortly convey your meaning.

Thomas Jefferson famously said, “The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.” Eliminate unnecessary phrases like, “in order to,” “in the event that,” “in the process of”, or “needless to say.” Cut filler words that add no meaning or value to a sentence. Rewrite paragraphs to remove repetitive phrases. Get rid every of rogue “that” that sneaks into your copy.

Tell your mission story with passion. How does your ministry meet critical needs? The best way to illustrate your impact is to tell a story. Congregants tend to nod off during a deep theological dissertation, but when the preacher illustrates the point with a real-life story, the crowd perks up. Compelling copy uses emotion to pull the reader into the story, offers the solution, creates urgency, and finishes with a strong call to action.

Help your reader understand the eternal value of your work. Why is your ministry different from secular organizations who also teach children, give hope to the homeless, train the next generation, or provide disaster relief? The good news of the Gospel should separate your story from others who only do good deeds. Share your ministry stories of changed lives.

You can write the best copy of your career, but if you let a misspelled word or incorrect grammar slip past, your message suffers. Let your draft sit for a while before you edit. Read your content out loud and change anything that doesn’t make sense or causes you to stumble over. The best editing strategy is to use your red ink pen to cut and simplify.

Think About This: John 16 records a difficult conversation between Jesus and his disciples. He was explaining his death and resurrection, but they weren’t grasping the concept. Finally, in John 16:29 they got it, “Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech.” You may have a complicated message to share. Be patient and keep explaining it until your audience understands.

Response: Father, give me the ability to clearly communicate our story so many people will partner with us.

Ron Haas has served the Lord as a pastor, the vice president of advancement of a Bible college, a Christian foundation director, a board member and a fundraising consultant. He’s authored two books: Ask for a Fish – Bold Faith-Based Fundraising and Simply Share – Bold, Grace-Based Giving. He regularly presents fundraising workshops at ministry conferences and has written fundraising articles for At the Center magazine and Christian Leadership Alliance’s Outcomes magazine.

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