How Mission-Based Writing is Like Dating

Think of a time when you were infatuated with someone, and you wanted to get them to like you, connect with them, and see if you could get a relationship going. That’s actually what you’re always trying to do in mission-based writing. Whether your goal is to persuade a foundation to fund your work, a donor or volunteer to contribute, or a potential client to come receive services, what you’re really trying to do is build a relationship, so it can help to apply commonsense dating tips to your writing.

Here are a few common sense tips to follow if you want to get a relationship going with someone new, whether in dating or in mission-based writing.

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Three Crucial Tips for Writing About
Your Participants

Even when your heart is in the right place, it is all too easy to write about the participants of your work in a way that subtly disempowers or dishonors them. Here are three important considerations to make sure you avoid this faux pas.

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How to Bring Your Work to Life with Participants’ Stories

Whether you are seeking new clients, participants, donors, funders, or volunteers, you need your writing to bring your work vividly to life so they will imagine what it is like and want to receive it or help you provide it. Quotations and stories are the best way to illustrate what your work truly feels like to real people … but only if you use them effectively.

The last Flight Log explored what makes a quotation strong, how to fit them when you have very little space to work with, and how to collect good ones. Now let’s talk about how to effectively use participant stories.

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How to Bring Your Work to Life with Participants’ Words

You need potential participants or clients to see why they should jump up and run to you, and you need potential donors and funders to see why they should give as much as they can. You can describe all of the benefits in perfect detail, but that won’t make readers imagine what it feels like to receive them. So what will?

Quotations! Never underestimate the power of a real person’s words. Direct quotations from participants bring in human voices that the reader can hear and can’t help relating to, voices that sound like people they know.

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How to Organize Your Writing: Quick Tips
that Illustrate Their Own Points

Most people probably don’t think very deeply about this topic, but the choice you make will affect your readers’ experience of your writing. Whether you want to organize complex items or emphasize simple ones, and whether you want your reader to pay attention to every one of a long list of items or to compound them all together, your choice of when and how to use lists will either aid or thwart the impression you actually want to make. The following quick guide includes a bullet list to describe when you might want to use a list, a numbered list to illustrate when you might want to use a bullet or numbered list, a sentence-form list to explore when you might want to use one of those, and a non-list paragraph to discuss when you might be best off not using a list at all.

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Be Concise and Show All
the Positive Impact You Make

You want all of the people who benefit from or assist work – or who might do either one – to understand the full positive impact of all you do. It is crucial to quickly and effectively impart this understanding to your actual and potential clients, constituents, referral sources, staff, volunteers, donors, funders, investors, and promoters. If they all know how great the work is, you will get more and better suited recipients, more and better quality volunteer and staff work, more and larger financial and in-kind contributions, and more and better quality promotion.

Yet all too often nonprofits and mission-based businesses express only the most basic and obvious ways that they make a difference, and don’t paint a vivid picture of the depth and breadth of benefit they provide. Frequently this omission is in the name of conciseness, yet it is possible to concisely describe each level of impact, and it is very worth the space, for it may be the most powerful way to inspire people to come receive or give as much as they can. A concise bullet or numbered list of every level of impact is an excellent piece to use in websites, brochures, donor solicitation letters, social media posts, grant proposals, and more. It is quick and easy to read, and the list format emphasizes that there are many levels of positive impact that people might not immediately see.

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Which Should You Appeal to, Head or Heart?
Part Two: How About Both?

The last Flight Log explored the pros and cons of writing to appeal to your readers’ heads or their hearts. Which is the best choice depends on the reader, the situation, … and the way the human mind works. A number of Flight Log readers responded with a request for tips on how to appeal to both head and heart at once; fortunately I had already anticipated the question and drafted this article! Read on for two tips on how to assess your reader and three examples of how to appeal to your reader’s head and heart at the same time.

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Which Should You Appeal to, Head or Heart?
Part One: Pros & Cons

Will data do more to forward your work, or will details of lived experience do more? If you want to persuade people to make a donation or grant, or to choose your method and hire you to provide it, should your writing speak more to readers’ heads or to their hearts? Here are some pros and cons to consider to help you decide which method will work best for each audience and situation.

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This Tiny Word Can Do Wonders
for Your Work

The way you describe your organization or business defines how people connect to it – or don’t. Your word choice matters, even down to what pronoun you use.

You may be thinking, “But we don’t have a choice; an organization is an abstract noun, so grammatically we have to use it.

Not so.

An organization is also a group of people. As a member of the group, you can use the pronouns we, our, and us. Or if you are a solopreneur, you can use I and me.

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A Quick Tip to Make Readers Feel Close
to Your Work

Small words can make a big difference.  There are many pairs of words that you might use interchangeably, but their differences could markedly change how well your readers connect with what you write.

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