DickersonBakker Blog

Don’t Let the Grinch Steal Your Year-End Appeal

She sits up on that mountain top and watches you produce year-end collateral, scrutinizing each and every word, the paragraph placement, the grammar, the pictures, the paper quality, the…well…the everything.

I’ve been that grinch.  I hate to admit it, but it’s true.  As a fundraiser, I challenged the marketers, I’m sure, to their very wit’s end.  Until of course, I realized that even I preferred to read what they wrote over what I did. A few market tests later, and my grammar grinch heart started growing. 

It’s ironic then, that I now lead Dickerson Bakker’s Impact Messaging Services.  If they could see me now…

Here are a few lessons I’ve learned over the years:

Grammar is important, but it’s not conversational. 

Try having a conversation with someone using perfect grammar.  Don’t use any repetition.  Don’t use sentence fragments. Do not use contractions. 

Does that feel strange?  Do you feel stiff and formal? 


Fundraising appeals and other types of promotional writing are meant to read like conversations.  Audiences need to be drawn in and engaged by what you are saying to them because what you have to say is important!  Best case scenario: they are so engaged they want to respond!

Give donors a seat at the hero table.

It’s not unusual to hear an organization make itself the hero of its own story. 

“Look at our outcomes!”

But the story doesn’t end there. Truth be told, it didn’t start there, either.  Without the donor’s support, the outcome never would have happened. 

In effective donor communication, the hero has to be the donor who participates in the story by giving.  We use the words “partner”, “friend”, “family” to indicate that these great things are happening because we did them “together with you.”

Ask them to help you solve a problem.

DickersonBakker heard loud and clear from donors in a recent study that they want to hear about the needs of the organizations they support. For an appeal to draw donors in, there has to be a compelling purpose, urgency, and a problem that can only be solved if and when they partner with you.

If you want to get donors off the sidelines, it’s important to offer them the opportunity to be your partners in the solution.

Repeat what you want them to remember.

In formal writing, repetition is not a virtue.  The idea is that repetitive writing will bore the reader.  In a book or an article, that is very likely a truth to stand by.

Since promotional writing is more conversational, those repetition rules don’t apply.  In conversation, repetition happens all the time.  We repeat things so naturally that we hardly notice it.  Repetition creates emphasis and helps people remember what has been said. Even speech writers are trained to insert repetition “early and often.”

Repeat their names!  Repeat “Thank you.”  Repeat “Please consider giving.”   Repeat “Together with you…”

Being personally acknowledged, thanked and implored that they are needed will never bore a donor.

But I promise, the Grammar Grinch will make them feel robbed.

Do you need help communicating with donors?  DickersonBakker Impact Messaging Services can help you take your donor messaging to the next level. Contact us today to learn more.

Back to blog