Claire Meyerhoff

My great friend Claire Meyerhoff is back with a 3-part series on writing more donor-centric communications. ~Kivi

Guest Post by Claire Meyerhoff

We’re nonprofit gals and guys, so for the most part, style is a matter of function and budget.  Our fashion icons are…well, uh…

What do you mean you don’t have one?  How about Grace Kelly? Katy Perry? Jackie O? George Clooney? Lady Gaga?

My style icon is Bill Torrey.

A 60-something retired network radio news anchor?  In those sweatpants?

Mr. Torrey is my style icon – when it comes to writing.

Back in the 80’s, Bill taught broadcast journalism at American University in D.C. and I was one of his students.    He taught us everything about interviewing, reporting, producing – all with a very strong emphasis on writing including…

• Write in an active, present tense.

• Use a conversational style.

• Avoid extra words like “that.”

• Steer clear of jargon, overused phrases and “official” words like “youth” (“No one says, “I was so happy to see my favorite youths at the graduation party!”)

As you write your next “donor centric” fundraising letter, newsletter, end of year appeal, annual report and ANYTHING social media – think about your style.  Is it active, conversational and engaging? Are you relying on jargon and phrases like “making a difference?”

Looking for a writing style icon? How about Bill?  I asked if he still has any of his “writing lists” from his AU teaching days – and HE DOES.  So…

In my next posts, we’ll look at jargon, clichés and more, offering options, tips and other good stuff about writing like a real person – and not an organizational robot.  For instance, instead of “youth,” how about kids, teenagers or young people?

Thanks, Bill.

Claire Meyerhoff specializes in development marketing, particularly planned giving. You can see some of her newest work for National Wildlife Federation at She owns The PG Agency based in the Washington, D.C area and you can reach her at

Published On: September 7, 2012|Categories: Writing Skills and Content|