How a “gifted writer” figured out fundraising…read on…

How a “gifted writer” figured out fundraising…read on…

Hi folks

I thought you’d enjoy this short piece about how one professional fundraising communicator overcame a significant barrier to succeeding as a fundraiser. As someone that has been in the profession for some 35 years it’s a journey many of us can recognize!




Join Jeff and Daryl in conversation and ask them the tough fundraising and communications questions as a free Moceanic Webinar on 27 June

How One “Gifted Writer” Finally Figured Out Fundraising

By Jeff Brooks

When I landed my first fundraising job at a small nonprofit 30 years ago I thought I was the bee’s knees. I was regarded as a gifted writer as a student. After university, I went into teaching English. After a few years, I grew weary of the teaching treadmill. So, I found a job as a fundraising writer.

I couldn’t wait to apply my writing skills to raising money for causes that were desperate for funds.

But I got a shock.

The writing style I’d developed through college and into teaching was sophisticated, complex, clever, poetic. And it didn’t work in fundraising.

I found the “better” I wrote, the worse the results got.

My lowest point came when I had written a letter that I was convinced was brilliant. I told myself I had finally got it right and that donations were going to flood in.

They didn’t. The piece failed spectacularly.

At that point, I felt like walking away from fundraising and going back to teaching. Which was pretty much like throwing in the towel.

Then something happened that saved my fundraising career and truly changed the course of my life.

Someone came to my rescue.

An experienced fundraiser and writer took the time to mentor me. He beat the heck out of my copy. He never let a single syllable of my brilliant writer BS get past him.  He told me this:

Like a lot of writers, you are obsessed with making your writing beautiful. You need to ease back on that. Beautiful copy doesn’t move the needle. Instead, get obsessed with response numbers. A writer who’s focused on the numbers will always do better than an artsy-fartsy writer who focuses on beauty.

It wasn’t an easy change, but I shifted my approach. My writing got simpler and clearer. I stopped sounding like the music of the spheres and started to sound like a human being. And my results got better and better. My career took off.

You see, the science of fundraising often tells us the complete opposite of what seems like common sense. I want to ensure that you don’t fall prey to the misinformation out there – there’s a lot of it.

And it’s costing many organisations thousands of dollars, euros, pounds – and stopping the flow of funds to causes desperately in need of help.

The solution is twofold:

  1. Don’t use your own likes and dislikes to guide what you do in fundraising. (In fact, your likes are probably a counter-indicator of what will work!) This takes a lot of discipline.
  2. Get as educated about what works in real-life fundraising as you possibly can! Read the books. Follow the blogs. Go to a conference now and then. Attend webinars. The resources out there are many and powerful — and they can take you to that same transformation that I eventually found.

Being aware that your instincts can lead you so badly astray is the first step. Many non-profit professionals never get that far. You can!

Jeff Brooks is a Fundraisingologist at Moceanic. He has been serving non-profit organisations for nearly 30 years. A frequent speaker at fundraising conferences, he blogs at  and at , and is the author of three books, most recently How to Turn Your Words into Money.

Join Jeff and Daryl in conversation and ask them the tough fundraising and communications questions as a free Moceanic Webinar on 27 June

Conferences DUA fundraising