Writing copy for a charity campaign can be a bit of a contentious issue among experienced charity copywriters. Some take the view that when dealing with human issues, suffering and poverty, sticking to a softly-softly approach to requesting donations is the best way forward. This is to ensure not alienating the reader or making them feel uncomfortable.
Others, like myself, tend to disagree; feeling that charity copy in particular needs to waste no time getting to the literal heart of the matter. Be it long copy, short copy, digital or print – copywriting is sales in print and yet you aren’t selling something when it comes to charity. There is no latest fashion, must-have gadget, just released product line or consumer solution. There is no only one thing: need.
Unlike extolling the benefits of a particular product or the customer experience, when writing for charity there is nothing solid which can be offered to the reader in return. They will not be delivered with a shiny package of goods once they part with their cash. There will be nothing material they can hold in their hands nor any real experience or benefit to their own personal life.
Instead charity copy asks for money in return for nothing. Requesting donations relies solely on the ability to make the reader part with their money for the pure benefit of others. Quite often those others are people they will never meet and who may live in another part of the world. It is therefore all too easy for the reader to skim through and click away in search of something more personally beneficial.
Due to this, when writing copy for charity campaigns, there are two things to bear clear in the mind of both the writer and the reader:
1. The human experience. That is, relating the appeal to the reader’s individual world. Although the beneficiaries of the charity may be far removed physically from the world of the donor, there exists within us all common ground as humans: be it through our gender, age, as parents, partners, friends or family. Relating copy to the audience and speaking to the individual in a one-on-one, human way is therefore key.
2. Emotion - pull those heart strings. With charitable giving, the only benefit which can offered in return for funds is the emotion of giving. That is, the feeling of benefiting another with no personal material gain. Sometimes, the best route to this is through sharp realisation – the only anecdote to the prickly ‘so what?’ response.
Charitable causes are often not for positive, happy-go-lucky reasons. For the majority of the time, they are for situations and circumstance that are dire and involve suffering, conflict, desperation and death. With issues such as this, there can be no holding back. There should be no dancing around the sensitivities of the reader. What is needed is copy that packs an emotional punch and connects in a way that leaves a lasting reminder. Describing situations in real terms, with clarity and honesty is the best way forward to creating copy which invokes action. This is the only way to really assure both short-term and long-term donations and make a true impact.
Next time you are planning your campaign copy, drop me a line. I write for a number of causes and can deliver effective copy for a number of mediums in a style that suits your cause. Get in touch.