Certain copywriting elements are essential – those parts of your nonprofit pieces that are important to write really well. This list is an introductory primer to those essential copywriting elements.
This copy or phrase at the top of a piece draws in the reader and entices him to read further. Good headlines emphasize a benefit.
The opening sentence (or paragraph) of a piece has an important job – to grab the reader and get her to keep reading. A summary sentence, powerful story, fascinating fact, or stirring quote are some of the most reliable hooks. Keep your first sentence short, easy to read and compelling enough so that the prospect will want to read further. Your goal is momentum.
Body copy is the guts of your project, whether it’s a webpage, an email campaign, an appeal letter, a newsletter article, or another project. Jump into it immediately after the opening hook.
Good nonprofit body copy focuses on getting a single point across in a piece – “selling” that point, such as Phase 1 of a capital campaign or a profile of a beneficiary. Tools to sell that point can be an anecdotal story from your ministry that demonstrates good results, facts and statistics that underscore the need you address, why and how your organization is the one to fix this issue, and the benefits your nonprofit offers (see Features and Benefits). Additional testimonials also add credibility to your copy.
As you write, a good rule of thumb is to vary body copy paragraphs, limiting each one to 6 or 7 lines per paragraph or less. You can break up copy further with bullet points. The project’s entire body copy project length can be short or long depending on how much information you’re willing to tell the reader – and how much space you have.
These short, headline-like mini titles break up the body copy. Use them in both online and offline copy. When written well, subheads create a short outline of your piece.
The call to action (also called “the Ask”) is sometimes presented at the beginning of your piece, often referred to in the middle, and always given at the end. The Ask gives readers clear directions about how to respond to your piece. Include in the Ask any premium offers they might receive in return for a gift. But also use this as a way to convey a sense of urgency, even adding a deadline by which readers need to respond. Spell out to readers exactly what you want them to do, even listing the steps right down to putting a stamp on the envelope and placing it in the mailbox.
An easy-to-use response mechanism is one of the most often-overlooked copywriting elements. In print, provide a clearly-constructed response device. Online, offer multiple, live links to your Donate page (a dead link is a dead end for a gift), volunteer sign-up, or event RSVP (depending on what your piece is for.)
In letters, email campaigns, and even blog posts, include a P.S. After the headline, readers turn most often to a letter or email’s post script, skimming or even skipping the body completely. Make sure the P.S. highlights an additional benefit in your campaign or emphasizes the benefit put forward in the headline. (More tips for writing a P.S. here.)
More on copywriting elements in nonprofit copywriting
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