We have been talking even more than usual about creating content since my new book, Content Marketing for Nonprofits, came out. But, if you don’t know some basics about writing for your audience, then it won’t matter how organized your editorial calendar is or that you have a core topics list. Victoria Michelson of Wild Apricot shares her top three tips on writing for a nonprofit audience. ~Kivi
Guest Post by Victoria Michelson of Wild Apricot
It can be all too easy to take the readers of our nonprofit’s newsletters and blog posts for granted, and to write for them the same way that we do for our professional partners, readers of grant proposals, etc.
The truth is, supporters of nonprofit organizations are a very different audience than those “in the business,” so to speak. As such, they have different needs and expectations that writers should be conscious of. Here are a few things to keep in mind when writing for your nonprofit audience.
Imagine you were going to see your doctor about an illness. During your appointment, he gave you a full diagnosis, but whatever explanation he gave was lost in a sea of medical mumbo-jumbo. This would be frustrating, wouldn’t it?
Remember that your readers will have a similar experience when they read a newsletter that drops official terms and phrases that are recognized by professionals in your industry, but not by the layman. Assume your reader might not be an expert in your field, and write accordingly. If you use a term that might not be immediately understood, take time to explain it or remove it if it’s unnecessary to the piece.
No Passive Voice
You may vaguely remember hearing this in your 7th grade English class, but don’t feel bad if you’ve since forgotten what it means.
It’s pretty easy. All “passive voice” means is that it is not clear who or what in a sentence is doing the action. For example:
“Mistakes were made.”
“The lamp was broken.” (I’ve used this one on my mom. Passive voice is great for deferring blame.)
Some are a little sneakier, like this one:
“America was discovered by Christopher Columbus”
Take ownership, Chris. You didn’t have trouble doing that back in 1492. If Chris moved himself to the beginning of the sentence, it would be written in what is called “active voice” (the one you’re supposed to use when you write, although nobody really tells you that; they just mention the one you’re not supposed to use and call it a day).
“Christopher Columbus discovered America.” See? Now he’s officially responsible for all of the consequences thereafter.
Write Like you Like Them
Be friendly, even conversational. This doesn’t mean you have to pepper your stuff with “um”s or other relatively unprofessional fluff. Rather, it means that you are writing in a way that your reader will readily understand and maybe even enjoy. They’ll feel like you’re writing specifically for them, and not for some government official or a guy/gal with a PhD.
Keep these in mind, and your readers will be even more encouraged to read that piece you crafted so carefully.
Victoria Michelson is a freelance writer for Wild Apricot, but she spends most of her time running races to support local nonprofit organizations in Boise, ID.