The 8 best words for fundraising

The 8 best words for fundraising


Nick Thomas is here with a simple guide to improving your fundraising vocabulary


I’ve been in fundraising for thirty odd years so I’ve read a lot of copy. Most of it well intentioned. Some of it brilliant. But much that has been derivative, lacking conviction and focus.

Often in fundraising it’s not about what you say, it’s how you say it. So choosing your words carefully is crucial. Here are some of the best:



The single most important word in the fundraising dictionary. Incorporating this little beauty as often as possible in your copy will keep you away from corporate bull and ensure your focus is on the person that matters – your donor. Some examples: 

·     ‘You are amazing and your support is so precious/valued/appreciated/cherished…’

·     ‘We can’t do this without you. If you took your support away we would struggle/labour/fail…’

·     ‘What do you want to know? We would like to tell you about the incredible impact you make.’ (Note: If you want to stand out from every other UK charity, never say ‘the difference you make.’)

·     ‘Thank you’. ‘Thank you’. ‘Thank you’. Incredibly, this word seems to be going out of fashion for some charities. Not so for that fundraising giant, the Salvation Army. In just one half-page legacy enquiry letter I counted nine expressions of gratitude and thanks.



Always embrace and encourage the feeling that your cause is a joint enterprise with the donor. ‘Together we will help millions/cure this disease/stop the cruelty’ etc. Macmillan has embraced this idea totally - and reaped the rewards.



Manners make the cause (see ‘thank you’ above).



We need your money and we bloody well need it now. Any communication that doesn’t shine the bright red light of urgency runs the risk of being ignored.



See the amazing difference you make. Talking about achievements is good; showing it is better.



Never stop talking about your end game, what lies at the end of the rainbow. How you want to put yourself out of business.



An extremely potent word. Neuroscientists have now determined that the appeal of ‘new’ has been hard wired into our brains, and novelty actively stimulates the brain’s reward centre. So it’s vital to appear vital, of the moment and ‘happening’.



Because of the average Briton’s ‘don’t-talk-about-it’ attitude to death, the word remains taboo and its power to startle has never diminished. Death can induce a frisson like no other word available to a fundraiser. Sadly it’s also a word that rarely appears in the communication that requires it most of all – legacy marketing. Legacies remain the lifeblood of the sector, and we should be helping more people (especially affluent baby boomers) come to terms with their mortality, and show them they could leave a better world if they made a bequest.


Nick Thomas is creative director at Campfire Marketing.

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