What do you do when you sit down to write a fundraising appeal (or any communication for that matter)? Do you have a consistent planning process that you go through to set yourself up for success?
Having a planning process before your sit down to write anything will help you do the necessary groundwork to ensure that writing goes smoother. In this post, I’m going to tell you about a few of the benefits of pre-writing planning and then walk you through my own planning process.
Why bother planning?
Yes, planning might seem like an extra step in your workflow, but how much time do you lose trying to figure out what to say on the fly? My guess is it is a lot of time lost. Planning helps you to create a roadmap to get you to where you want to go. Furthermore, having clarity on the most important points you want to make in your copy ensures that you stay on point.
I have also found that planning helps me writing faster. Spending 15 to 30 minutes doing a bit of planning will help me get that first draft written so much quicker. That means that I can save time throughout the whole project process.
Finally, having a plan helps you break down a bigger project into smaller chunks. If you feel daunted by the task of writing more than 1,000 words your plan will help you see the natural sections in the piece, which means that you can break the project down into smaller, more manageable pieces.
3 tips to help you get started
#1 – Summarize the most important information in one place
This is also known as a project or creative brief and it’s a tip that I picked up at my first fundraising job at the University of British Columbia. This is technically the first step you should do for any project because it helps you work through other important project decisions.
What information should you summarize? I always like to have the following on a project brief: the target audience, core message, supporting messages, call to action, story details and theory of change.
Having all of this information laid out means that I can reference it quickly during the writing and editing process to make sure the project is still on track.
#2 – Outline your piece
Even though I have created a project brief, I still spend a few minutes outlining the piece that I’m going to work on. If that piece is a fundraising appeal, my outline will consist of the key sentences, headlines, and call(s) to action.
Why do I use that information as my outline? Because it’s usually the most important, most read information. That means I had better make it good. So I spend extra time at the beginning writing all of it and arranging it in an outline. From there, my job is to fill in the gaps and connect the ideas.
#3 – Take the pressure off yourself
This is a tip that’s probably easier said than done, but I’m going to include here anyway. Rarely has there been an instance where I’ve been able to write anything decent what I was stressed out or all up in my head. I know enough about my own writing process to know that I have to be relaxed. I can’t be worried about what’s next or the outcome of that appeal. I have to be present and just write.
Sometimes I will close my eyes and take a few deep breaths before starting. Other times I put on my favorite writing music (Yo-Yo Ma’s Bach Cello Suites, in case you’re curious). I do whatever I can to put myself in the right headspace.