Writing is vital to fundraising. Direct mail, thank you letters, emails, social posting, brochures, event invites – you name it, it needs copy.

But many of us fall into writing ruts. How many times have you followed a template or re-used wording, not because it’s effective, but because it’s quick, comfortable, and gets that task off your plate?

In the spirit of the New Year, I’d like to challenge you to scrap some of those comfortable writing practices. Our words are the best tool we have to delight, persuade, and inspire donors – let’s use them wisely.

Here are 4 words to avoid in your fundraising writing in 2017:


As in: This year, you helped save a life/buy a new MRI machine/provide counselling to people in need.

Sure, your average annual gift donor didn’t buy that new piece of equipment all by themselves. Their gift worked in tandem with others to make that possible. Here’s the thing: they know they’re not solely responsible for the impact of your work. But why wouldn’t you want to make them feel like they are?

When you slot in that little word ‘help’, you’re taking some of the power of the gift away.

This year, let’s make donors feel like they made a world of difference with every gift, no matter the size. You saved a life. You bought the MRI machine. You provided counselling.


As in: Your gift today will ensure that…

This is another word that distances the donor from the impact. Case in point:

“Your gift today will ensure that we can continue to save lives.”


“Your gift today will save lives.”

We both know which is more powerful. ‘Ensure’ is a sneaky way to bring it back to YOU, the organization, when it needs to be about the donor and their gift. It sounds long-term and flimsy. Who wants to ensure something will happen some day, when they could actually make it happen right now?


As in: With your support, we’ll do XYZ. Or: Your gift is supporting communities/veterans/endangered species.

‘Support’ is so generic and broad. It feels like it’s filled with meaning. In reality, it’s a little bit lazy. This year, let’s get specific and ditch the support.

Are you asking for a gift? Consider asking for their kindness, their compassion, their generosity, their voice. Or maybe – not to get too wild – openly ask for their donation.

Are you telling your donor what their gift is doing? In that case, it’s an easy fix – do that! Share specific outcomes, and frame them in clearer ways.  They aren’t supporting communities, they’re strengthening them. They aren’t supporting veterans, they’re advocating for them. They aren’t supporting the endangered species, they’re protecting them.


When I’m asked to proof writing, one of the most common edits I make is to change “we” to “you”.

This year, instead of talking about “work we’re doing”, let’s talk about “work you’re making possible”.

When we use language like “our work”, it removes the donor from the equation. Suddenly, it’s not about the powerful difference they’re making for a cause they care about – it’s about the difference your organization is making. And while that might be true, it’s not going to elicit the kind of loyalty that will keep a donor giving again and giving more. Framing around ‘you’ gives donors credit for making the change, and let them feel that empowerment.

Bonus word: “Innovative”

As in: the innovative solutions/treatments/programs you’re providing. See also top-tier, cutting-edge, ground-breaking.

These phrases are a more personal peeve. Is using them hurting your fundraising? Probably not. But are they totally overused, over-saturated, and losing meaning? I’d argue that they are.

This year, let’s find more creative ways to make our work come to life. Let’s show that the work is innovative or ground-breaking, rather than saying it.

Let’s bust out our thesauruses and make our writing awesome in 2017. What crutch words make you crazy – fundraising or otherwise? I’d love to know!