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Call To Action: Have You Told Readers What To Do?

Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.

The Call To Action (CTA) is the point where you tell your reader what to do, whether it’s in your appeal letter, on your web page, in your email campaign, or on a response device.

It’s at the CTA when copywriters can get the gift or the new contact or the mention. (Or not.)

And why is that?

Lack of Clarity: the Biggest Call to Action Fail

3 tips for writing a call to action (CTA) with Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter

You’ve done a great job arousing interest in your reader. You’ve shared the need powerfully with data and stories, arousing your prospect’s compassion and moving her to say, “Wow, I’ve got to do something!”

It’s at this point that your piece may fail … simply because she cannot connect the dots. She sees the problem but you haven’t yet told her what action will provide the solution.

There’s an easy way to prevent that. State clearly to the reader what you want him to do next.

Do You Know What You Want Him To Do?

Before you write your CTA, identify the action you want from the prospect, such as:

  • You want him to give a gift.
  • You want him to sign up for your newsletter.
  • You want him to comment on your social media site.
  • You want him to volunteer for a specific event.
  • You want him to share a link with 5 friends.
  • You want him to download a information.
  • You want him to click on a page on your site.

(More tips for knowing what you want your reader to do.)

How to Write a Call to Action

Once you know what you want the reader to do, write your CTA. But be forewarned: this is not a time to pussy foot around, massaging your copy. This is the point at which you must write plainly.

You needn’t be pushy, but you must be clear. State beyond a shadow of a doubt what the next step is.

  • Use second person
  • Instruct the reader
    "Take the enclosed response device, fill it out, and drop it in the mail …"
    "Click here to give a gift for …"
    "Complete this form to sign up …"
  • Give her a deadline
    "Enroll by …"
    "Log on and post your comments before …"
    "If you respond by [date], then …"

A good CTA is simple. Just tell them what to do. (Like I just did.)

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