Jeff Brooks: Great fundraising copy doesn’t look great to everyone

Jeff Brooks is unsurpassed in his abilitity to boil fundraising down to its essential parts. This post is straight from his blog, which I encourage you to check out …

Want to know what sucks about fundraising copy?

The more excellent it seems, the less excellent it is.

I’ve seen appeals that read like poetry …

Imagery that would make John Donne gasp.

Layers of connotation that would surprise James Joyce.

Inner rhythm like a Chopin etude, architecture like a Bach invention. With consonance and assonance straight from the pen of Dylan Thomas.

But when real donors got the appeal, they didn’t care. All that great stuff added up to almost nothing in terms of response.

The ones that work? They’re usually look a little rough: Dashed out, simplistic, repetitive to the point of boring.

But the professionals know — those winners that look so crappy? They’re just as hard to write as the beauties that impress everyone but don’t quite work. And that’s what separates the men from the boys, the women from the girls, in fundraising.

If it’s any comfort, other kinds of writing are like that too. W.B. Yeats wrote about this in his poem Adam’s Curse:

… ‘A line will take us hours maybe;
Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought,
Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.
Better go down upon your marrow-bones
And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones
Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;
For to articulate sweet sounds together
Is to work harder than all these…’

By Jeff Brooks, March 2, 2011