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Health-check: How to fast track your fundraising strategic planning

From content to great copy. What does a writer need to craft powerful, motivating stories?

— Written by Kirsty Ventura, Copywriter at Marlin Communications

A strong brief can be the difference between good copy and great copy. Are you providing your writer with all the information they need to craft the best copy for your next appeal? 

Read on to learn how you can equip your writer with all the tools and information they need to inspire people to give.

Daniel Kahneman once said, “No one ever made a decision because of a number. They need a story.”

Call me biased, but I tend to agree.

As a copywriter at Marlin Communications, my job is to tell the stories that inspire people to give – and then come back to give again. But I can’t do it alone. Good writing starts with a good brief. The better the information you can provide your writer, the better the story they’ll be able to tell.

So here’s what I look for in a brief to help me craft the most compelling copy.

A language guide

Copywriters are like the chameleons of language, able to adopt different tones of voice at the drop of a hat – or at least we wish we could. The truth is, just like any chameleon, we need a good background to work with. That’s where an in-depth language guide can really make the difference.

By laying out your organisation’s unique tone of voice in a clear and concise language guide, you can help your writer better capture your brand identity.

This document should be available to anyone who needs to write in your organisation’s voice, whether they’re writing emails, social media posts, blog articles or press releases. A language guide can be an invaluable resource for keeping everyone aligned and your tone of voice consistent across all communication channels.

An overview of your audience

Having a clear idea of who I’m writing to is key to understanding how I write to them. The more a writer knows about what makes your audience tick, the better we can tailor our copy to their unique needs and interests.

A good brief will break down your audience (or audiences) and provide key insights into their behaviour. Bonus points if you can include information about the kinds of messaging they’ve responded to in the past!

The problem…

The goal of every fundraising appeal is to raise money to solve a problem. But before I can confidently write about that problem, I first need to understand it.

The best briefs tell me everything I need to know about a situation: the history of the problem, the events that led to it, key stats, and more. The more information you can give your writer about the problem, the better they’ll be able to inspire your audience to want to solve it.

… and the solution

On the other side of the coin is the solution. If I’m not clear on exactly how your organisation is helping to solve the problem, your audience won’t be either.

People are more likely to donate to an organisation they feel they can trust, so be as transparent as possible about what exactly your organisation does, why you do it and how those activities have an impact.

Dollar handles

Once we’re clear on the problem and its solutions, it’s time to tie it all back to your audience with a strong set of dollar handles.

When I receive dollar handles that are too broad, wishy-washy, or don’t align with the goals of an appeal, it can make my copy seem confusing, inconsistent, or even dishonest.

Clear, concise and relevant dollar handles are key to crafting consistent and compelling copy that shows donors exactly how they can make a difference.

Case studies

Good case studies are at the heart of compelling storytelling, particularly in the fundraising space.

In the past, I’ve received case studies and interview transcripts that were so powerful that the copy just about wrote itself – particularly when it included strong interviews loaded with lots of compelling quotes. At other times, I’ve really had to stretch to tie a case study back to the appeal because it just wasn’t relevant.

Think carefully about what you want to say to your supporters, and choose a story or person to interview who most aligns with that message.


A great story may be at the heart of every successful campaign, but good statistics can really lend weight to your appeal.

Writers use statistics in a variety of ways. They can help emphasise the extent of a problem. They can build credibility by showing how your organisation is working to solve that problem. And they can act as proof of how your organisation is already making an impact.

A strong appeal leads with the story and backs it up with solid statistics.

Previous appeal examples

Sometimes, the quickest way to understand how an organisation communicates is to see it for yourself. That’s why I LOVE seeing previous examples of successful campaigns and assets that show your voice in action.

Consider sharing examples of previous appeals you’ve liked – and that your audience has responded well to – to show your writer how everything comes together to form an appeal that’s uniquely… you!

Remember, writers love telling a good story, but we need a little help from you to tell a great one. By improving the quality of your briefs, you can set your writer – and therefore your next appeal – up for success!

Do you need help developing great copy for your next appeal? You have a wonderful story that’s just waiting to be told, and we’d love to help you tell it. Get in touch to discuss how we can help you craft your next appeal to inspire people to give generously.