How to Write Copy for a Nonprofit

Writing marketing collateral for a nonprofit is unique from any other type of business copy-writing, because often what you’re selling doesn’t have a dollar sign in front of it.

In order to successfully represent a cause with the written word, you have to be a good storyteller and create something buzz-worthy for it to be worth anything to your reader.

The nonprofit business sector has demanded a higher level of messaging for awhile now. In a nonprofit business-customer relationship, often what’s being exchanged is not just a product or service. Rather, what’s being exchanged is a life, a story, a cause.

The messages that are worth spreading — the ones that have the potential to “go viral” — are interesting, even fascinating. They are the stories or videos or photographs that people naturally want to forward on to their friends or post on their Facebook page. Not because they owe you anything, but because great ideas and stories deserve to be shared.

If the copy you’re writing for a nonprofit doesn’t reflect that, then don’t even bother. If you are not going to tell a tale of something remarkable, something truly ground-breaking, then you’re wasting your time. You’re either not marketing your offerings well, or what is being offered isn’t worth being offered in the first place. Either way, you’re out of a job.

If your service isn’t worth someone’s attention, your prospect already knows it. She has already tuned you you and your clever marketing message.

Even in for-profit business nowadays, it is no longer sufficient to “sell” just a product. It doesn’t matter that people need it. There are a dozen other options. What they want is a story, a cause, a purpose for buying into your vision.

In some cases, they want an ideal, something noble to which they can dedicated their lives. And if you’re asking someone to contribute to your nonprofit organization (in the form of money, resources, or time), they want those things even more.

As the person in charge of communicating on behalf of this organization, it is your duty to do more than craft compelling copy. You need to tell a story that people can get caught up in. Come to think of it, maybe that’s not too different from marketing for any other type of organization.

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One Comment on “How to Write Copy for a Nonprofit”

  1. MySahana says:

    Yes! This is exactly what I’ve been dealing with: trying to figure out how to “sell” my “product” when what I’m selling is an idea. I definitely see that the more compelling my story is the more people become interested. But talk about pressure to be a story-teller! Thanks for the validation in this post. :)


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