How Important is Grammar in Online Fundraising?

Whether or not proper grammar matters in online fundraising depends upon to whom you are talking. If the reader of your email fundraising letter doesn’t know that it’s “commitment” and not “committment” or that commas always go inside the quotation marks, then it probably doesn’t matter to that person. But some people, espeically those who write for a living, have a hard time getting past those little blunders, and that could hurt response. So here are some grammar basics to use in your online fundraising.

  1. Try to write to the 6th to 8th grade level. It’s harder than you might think, and it requires you to clearly explain yourself.
  2. Use active voice. “I went to the store” is more interesting to read than “I have gone to the store.” It also uses fewer words, which is a good goal.
  3. Compose your non profit websites and emails in an application that checks your grammar, spelling and punctuation as you write (such as Microsoft Word), and then carefully proof it yourself. These programs won’t warn you when you’ve used the wrong form of a word: “fare” vs. “fair,” for example, so you need to be sure nothing is amiss.
  4. Americans don’t usually care if you use formal writing, but you need to decide what form you’re going to use … and then stick with it. For casual writing, which is appropriate for non profit website design and email fundraising, you can easily get away with using casual writing techniques such as contractions (“don’t” instead  of “do not,” for example). Just be consistent.
  5. Another form of casual writing is the use of the word “one” rather than the word “you” (“One should know” rather than “You should know” for example). If you’re like me, you prefer to be referred to as you, not one.The word “you” is much more personal and will get more responses in email fundraising as well as non-profit websites.
  6. Pick a style for your use of dashes and elipses … and stick with it.
    Do you put one long dash between words (commonly called an M Dash)? Do you put spaces before and after the dash? Do you use elipses (three periods strung together)? If so, do you include spaces before and after them? I typically include no spaces between M Dashes and the words they separate, but I do use spaces before and after elipses. Different people will have different ideas on what is correct, but the important thing is to be consistent.
  7. Stay away from run-on sentences and fragments. Run-on sentences are too long and complex. Fragments are fine occasionally, especially when you’re trying to make a case, but don’t over do it.
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Are you monetizing your email lists?

Randall MainsOf all the eMarketing channels you can leverage to develop online fundraising sources for your not-for-profit organization, email fundraising has proven to be one of the best.  You can monetize your email list.  A good qualified internal email list should generate substantial gifts toward your annual fund, add to your monthly donor groups, and even raise funds for special projects. I will show you how to monetize your email list laterbut for now I want to focus on how to begin building your lists, since many charities are literally at ground zero when it comes to their email lists.

Most companies don’t know how to start building their email lists. While there are numerous methods you can use, both online and offline, you’re best to grow your email lists by addressing your website traffic conversion plan first, which is generally an overlooked subject.  I personally prefer incentive-based email sign-up offers, which I’ll explain later.

Much of the focus I hear about is on generating visitors to your website, rather than converting the visitors you’ll get.  (Many charities have channels to generate traffic — namely broadcast television, radio, magazines, events, direct mail).  Generating traffic to your website without having a plan to convert the traffic into non profit marketing assets is the equivalent of having a billboard on the highway–you do get brand awareness because of the traffic that sees your ad, but you don’t get many tangible assets to work with after your ad ends.

Alternatively, a non profit website design strategy that concentrates on traffic conversion, will add people onto your email list with whom you can later communicate.  Using this method you collect as many names as possible that you can convert into gifts or sales today, plus names that are likely to convert in the weeks and months to come through online fundraising.

Most companies will dedicate zero real estate, or very little online real estate, to traffic conversion efforts. In my next blog I’ll feature websites that illustrate good traffic conversion systems as well as those that don’t.  Installing a good one will increase the size of your email lists, and eventually lead to the significant results many companies are getting out of email fundraising.

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