If a tree falls in the woods, does it make a sound? If your organization makes an ask and it is never read, did you ever really make an ask? Nonprofit development departments work tirelessly to identify and craft compelling stories and provide supporters with clear means of helping. Once the email is sent or letter is sealed and delivered, an even higher hurdle remains. Will the donor even read it?
Simple readability is a major factor in whether a prospective donor will give your ask the time of day. That’s why a compelling message and a clear ask can be undermined by things as seemingly silly as font choice and jargon. During her session, “How to Raise More Money with Your Annual Fundraising Appeal” at the 2018 Association of Fundraising Professionals International Fundraising Conference in New Orleans, La., Claire Axelrad, founder and principal at Clarification, shared five essentials to readability:
- Simple, legible font. Consider sans serif for headlines and serif for text. Avoid small type. Font size 14 is the new size 12;
- Be easy on your readers’ eyes. Break up giant blocks of text. Indent for new paragraphs. Keep paragraphs short. Use subheads and bold, italics, and underline font;
- Provide visuals. Share images of what the need is as well as what the solution looks like;
- Avoid jargon. You are probably more familiar with this topic than your reader. Avoid terms that you might use around the office such as client, case worker, underserved, and various acronyms; and,
- Keep things conversational. Pretend that you are chatting with your reader. Contractions, one-word sentences, and fragments are all OK. Adverbs, most adjectives, and a flood of “that” lose your readers.