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New Year Resolution

Writers of fundraising letters need to remember a fundamental point. In most cases, the potential donors will have to judge whether to donate solely on that letter (and any supporting material). They will not see the fundraiser’s honest face, hear his or her passionate voice, or be able to judge character.

So, that letter has got to tick a lot of boxes. In a conversation, things can be put right if it looks as though somebody is losing the plot or has doubts. No chance of that with a letter.

The New Year Resolution should be to get it right. Sloppy writing, poor grammar and spelling mistakes give a poor impression. I sometimes take the line that if an organisation, after thought, cannot produce a decent letter, perhaps it is not much good at its job – which usually involves thought and communication.

BENS (Braintree Emergency Night Shelter) has sent me a letter with a heading: The follow people will be beneficiaries due to the services offered by BENS:

One paragraph under this reads: Domestic violence problems, when it is not safe to stay in a situation that could result in death, the police may make use of BENS as a shelter for those in need of a place to stay for a night or two.

Of course, I know what they are driving at – but why not get it right?

Often, the best plan is to ask a friend who is quite unconnected with the organisation if they can understand a proposed letter and can spot mistakes in it. Somebody else in the same charity may be too close to the action and, in any case, will understand jargon which may be a mystery to an outsider.

P.S. If my writing is not up to scratch, at least I am not trying to attract charitable funds from any readers.

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