It’s a universal rule in fundraising. One of the first things you might learn when you take a fundraising course or start your first job in the donor development realm. It’s the subject of many blog posts and conference sessions: When you’re writing for a donor audience, your copy needs to include the word YOU.

Lots and lots of YOUs. More YOUs than “I”s or “we”s. It’s the holy grail of donor centricity.

But friends, I’m sorry to tell you… some of you are doing it wrong.

Because while most YOUs you’re using will engage your donor and make them feel loved and appreciated, there are other times when a YOU doesn’t quite have the same effect.

Here are the three YOUs you shouldn’t be using:

1. The afterthought YOU

This is the YOU that appears to be thrown in at the last minute. It’s the YOU that typically follows a long paragraph detailing how amazing the organization or cause is. It can look like this: “ABC Organization is a world-leader in the production and distribution of paper clips. Millions of office workers benefit from our paper clips every year. We save thousands of staples with our innovative, colourful paper clips. We’re amazing…because of you.”

Are you giving the donor credit? Sorta. But really, you’re giving your organization a whole lot more, and pretty much dismissing the donor’s contribution to the cause.

2. The accusatory YOU

Thankfully, this is one I don’t see often. But it’s definitely worth a mention here. This is the YOU that blames the donor for failing to meet a fundraising goal, or attempts to make the donor feel bad for a situation out of their control: “You didn’t answer our call for help last month and now more people wear sandals with socks than ever before.”

Suffice to say, speaking to your donors in that way will not motivate them to lend you their support the next time you ask.

3. The lackluster YOU

This one looks like this: “Thanks to donors/people like you, everyone will enjoy chocolate milkshakes at the park forevermore.” Donors like you. People like you.

Used sparingly, this type of YOU can still work in your fundraising appeal. And it’s a nice way to talk to a prospective audience, who’ve yet to make a donation. But it’s a YOU that’s just not as powerful or meaningful.

Think about it: How would you feel if your partner were to say, “Spouses like you make my days so much happier.” Or if your friend turned to you and said, “Friends like you make me laugh.” The sentiment is there, but it just doesn’t have the same effect.

Whenever you catch yourself writing “donors/people like you,” I implore you to drop the other words and just use YOU.

If you’re looking for even more ways to elevate your fundraising appeals, and speak to the donor in a more meaningful way, check out this post from fellow Good Worker Lindsay Thibault.

And make sure the YOUs you’re using are the right ones!