Charity copywriting

Crafting compelling messages for a cause

Charity copywriting is powerful and can profoundly impact the success of any non-profit organisation. Charity copywriters carefully craft messages and create content that resonates with any audience to inspire action, drive donations, and create lasting change. That’s the theory, anyway.

Unfortunately, many charities struggle with poor-quality content that fails to convey the life-changing work they do and the incredible impact they have. At 42group, we don’t like this – and we’re on a mission to help you change and improve.

In this monster article, we will explore the importance of charity copywriting, the key elements of genuinely great charity copy, and provide some proven techniques for crafting messages that connect with the people you want to connect with. This is all based on our experience of writing charity copy for some of the UK’s largest, smallest, and best charities (as well as a whole host of other big-name brands you’ll know).

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What is charity copywriting? 

Commercial copywriting is about trying to get you to buy. Charity copywriting, on the other hand, is there to grab you. In most cases, charity copywriting is attention-grabbing, informative, inspirational, and speaks to the heart of social issues. 

Charity copywriters often like to talk about charity copywriting as ‘telling stories that inspire action’. That’s true whether you’re creating content for healthcare providers like the NHS, non-profits, or third-sector organisations. 

But charities also have a commercial imperative to increase donations and are increasingly using tactics used by the biggest and best brands to drive action. The world is full of great examples of charity copywriting. (Greenpeace are one of our faves, but opinions differ.) 

Charity copywriters are responsible for creating content that spans various formats. It can include web copywriting, donor appeals, direct response marketing (emails, landing pages), social media copy, ads, animations and videos. You’ll also find copywriters creating what digital marketers call ‘content’ – blogs, opinion pieces, whitepapers, and social media copy. 

Charity copywriters (and charity copywriting agencies like 42group) play a vital role in the success of a charity, its brand, and its positioning. 

At 42group, we dispense with all the industry chatter and focus on the core of great copywriting: building human connections. This encapsulates everything that a great charity copywriter can achieve.

What does a charity copywriter do?

At 42group, our charity copywriters provide a comprehensive copy and content service that covers a huge range of activities and outputs. 

We know charities don’t have huge budgets and want a team that can deliver quality copy at the right time and for a reasonable cost.

If you’re searching for a charity copywriter, here are some of the skills they should have:

  • Website and online content: Copywriters should be able to share examples of website copywriting. As well as creating high-impact website content from scratch, copywriters may also be asked to edit, update and amend existing content. As well as working with words, check they’re confident at managing the process as well.
  • Social media content: Charity writers must have the ability and track record of developing engaging online content that reflects the charity’s mission and creates connections. 
  • Educational and promotional materials: Copywriters are going to spend a lot of time crafting brochures, flyers, and digital content that highlights key achievements and promotes relevant issues, the charity’s mission, and impact.
  • Direct response (email campaigns and newsletters): Direct response content like newsletters, email content and landing pages are core parts of the copywriter’s toolkit. Writers must be able to appeal to emotions, motivate donors, and inspire them to act (and to give).
  • Blog posts: Online content like blogs are core parts of charity brand building. Copywriters must have a portfolio or previous stories providing updates about the charity’s work and appealing to supporters and the wider public.
  • Case studies and testimonials: Impact involves sharing experiences, so copywriters should showcase the real-world impact of donations and support through compelling case studies and testimonials.
  • Long-form content (whitepapers, reports, and gated content): Charities regularly produce reports, impact assessments, and reports for stakeholders, funders, and other core audiences. Check your copywriter has a history of creating these assets.
  • Press releases & PR: This isn’t strictly a job for a copywriter, but in the charity world, everyone is already doing 14 different jobs, right? Copywriters (at least the ones at 42group who used to be ex-journalists) are happy to write press releases to promote your charity.

Why great charity copywriting is critical

Charities have a social conscience but must act like commercial organisations. What do we mean by that? 

There are approximately 166,000 charities in the UK covering pretty much anything you can think of. We’re pretty generous in the UK at funding charities, but the cost-of-living crisis means we’re giving less, focusing donations on the causes that matter most to us, official figures show.

Charities must make a compelling case, and a large part of that comes down to copywriting, content, and branding. 

We don’t want to overstate the importance, but it communicates the mission, values, and impact of the organisation. 

Viewed this way, charity copywriters do more than simply convey information – they create human connections. 

OK, so that’s a lofty ambition for a single social media post (we get that). 

Copywriting might seem like a solitary profession, and many writers prefer to work alone, but they collaborate closely with other teams and individuals involved in marketing, fundraising, branding and strategic management. 

You may also find that copywriters are called to work alongside others, including designers, photographers, animators, and videographers, to combine content and visuals. 

How effective copywriting influences donor behaviour

Charities need people to connect emotionally with a cause. Over half (56%) of givers say they’re motivated to donate to causes that they believe in.

Establishing this emotional connection is the role of a great charity copywriter. Using a range of techniques, including storytelling, case studies, impact reporting and more, they create a sense of urgency and empathy.

The WWF, for example, provides donors with a range of donation options. While every penny goes towards their environmental work, donors get the choice (or perhaps, the perception of choice) in where the money is donated and how it is used.

By using this sophisticated approach to personalisation, donors can visualise the impact of their contribution. Through ongoing engagement, they can imagine the lives they are changing, the communities they are supporting, and the positive impact of their contribution.

This emotional connection motivates them to take action – and that’s what charity copywriting is all about. 

Charity copywriters (the effective ones, at least) understand that the right combination of words can inspire donors to act immediately. They establish a relationship with a brand and invest in a cause that means something, and they have a stake in it. 

The ultimate aim is to cultivate long-term relationships with donors. A single donation can be turned into a regular giving through effective copywriting, engagement, and marketing. As well as generating returns, this approach ensures that donors feel appreciated and connected with the cause, encouraging them to continue their support and promote your charity. 

If your charity struggles to generate donations and engage with your audience, look at your copywriting and content.

Language and tone in charity copywriting

The language and tone used in charity copywriting can greatly impact its effectiveness. Let’s look at some of the ways that copywriters can use language in effective charity copywriting.

  • Understand your audience and their triggers: When it comes to crafting charity copy, you must understand your audience – and shape your language and tone around them. It’s not enough to simply know who they are; you need to delve deeper and understand what motivates them. This requires thorough research into their demographics, preferences, and interests. By gaining this insight, you can inform the tone, language, and narratives used in your messages, creating highly targeted and impactful copy that builds deeper human connections. 
  • Content must be balanced: Copywriters must strike a balance between explaining the seriousness of the cause and inspiring hope. The WWF example is a great one. It’s easy to become complacent about the environment and frustrated at the lack of change. But the WWF uses copywriting (from some of the best in the business) to inspire hope. They choose words and phrases that evoke emotions and resonate with their audience (us), creating a powerful connection and positioning us within their story.
  • Copywriters are storytellers: Storytelling is an effective technique for charity copywriters. It’s a powerful way to engage readers and create an emotional connection. Through sharing personal stories of successful interventions, charities can create a sense of empathy and encourage potential donors to act. Storytelling positions the audience within the narrative. Without their involvement, the story won’t have a happy ending.
  • Promote hope, not helplessness: It’s easy to focus on the negatives, but using positive language and framing the organisation’s work this way can help inspire donors. By focusing on the progress that has been made and the potential for even greater impact in the future, copywriters can inspire action.
  • Keep charity copy simple: Copywriters must always avoid using jargon or overly technical language that may alienate the audience. Instead, keep language accessible and relatable to ensure that the message is easily understood and has an impact.
  • Go big on impact: People want to know their contributions will have an impact. Donate to the WWF, and you’re part of a plan to save the world. It’s bold, but they can substantiate it with evidence of impact. Using case studies and real-life examples demonstrates impact and establishes trust and authenticity.

Charity copywriting skills

To truly engage donors, copywriters must understand their audience and tailor messages specifically to them.

  • Understand how to appeal to emotions: Emotions drive action, and charity copywriters must tap into this power. By incorporating stories, personal testimonials, case studies, and facts and figures, you can build a compelling case for your charity and establish an emotional connection with your audience. Triggering emotions like compassion, gratitude, or a sense of justice, you can inspire donors.
  • Use personal stories: Case studies, personal accounts, and testimonials can be incredibly powerful in charity copywriting. Sharing the stories of real people directly impacted and benefitting from the organisation’s work creates a sense of authenticity and credibility. People buy from people – they also donate to them, too.
  • Incorporate visuals: We’re all about the words at 42group, but visual imagery is vital in charity marketing and branding. A well-chosen photograph, expertly designed infographic, or engaging animation can convey complex information quickly and effectively – in many cases, better than written words. 
  • Write clear and concise messages: In a world filled with information overload, attention-grabbing content is essential. Charity copywriters must create clear and concise messages that quickly convey key messages without any wasted words.
  • Brevity is best: People have short attention spans. We know we do (checks phone). Keep your paragraphs short, use bullet points, and break text into subheadings. Don’t try to be too intelligent; just find the best way to convey what you do in the simplest and clearest terms. Short and powerful headlines, for example, can help effectively communicate your message the second a user lands on your website.
  • Use copywriting tricks: Copywriters can (and should) use commercial techniques – like social proof, scarcity, or appeals to authority – to generate trust and encourage action. Using these techniques sparingly and strategically enables copywriters to create a sense of urgency and inspire individuals to donate.

Charity SEO

In 2024, search engine optimisation (SEO) is a core part of the content producer and copywriter’s job. Simply put, SEO is about helping your website to improve its position in search engine rankings.

SEO is a complex process that includes making improvements to the technical aspects of your website (increasing speed, ensuring accessibility, and optimising the user experience). Fundamental to the success of your site and its performance in search engines is the copy and content you have on the site (as well as in things like the titles, meta tags, and other hidden elements, like image tags, etc.).

While charity copywriters are unlikely to be SEO experts, they need to understand the fundamentals of what SEO is and the importance of clear copy and content in the process. 

We’re going to write a detailed blog post on what charity SEO is, the importance of copy and content in the ranking process, and how you can work with a copywriter to boost the performance of your website.

Why work with a specialist charity copywriter? 

Choosing a specialist agency like 42group for your charity copywriting needs ensures:

  • Charity expertise: Our copywriters understand the nuances of charity communication, ensuring your message is both compelling and respectful.
  • Effective communication: We transform complex social issues into relatable and motivating narratives.
  • Brand consistency: We ensure that all content aligns with your charity’s values and mission, providing a consistent voice across all platforms.
  • Adaptability: The charity sector is ever-evolving, and our copywriters are adept at adjusting the tone and content to match current social climates and trends.
  • At-scale delivery: 
  • Global reach: With experience in working with various international clients, we can tailor your message to resonate across different cultures and regions.

Charity copywriting: Building human connections

Charity copywriters can play a key role in the success of your charity. By crafting messages that resonate, copywriters can inspire action, drive donations, and create lasting change for any charity.

Using the techniques we’ve described here, copywriters can combine empathy, emotion, and persuasive techniques to increase donations and maximise the impact of your charity. 

The copy and content on your website capture your charity’s brand, so never settle for second best.

42group: Expert charity copywriters

Searching for a charity copywriter? We’re here to help.

At 42group, we’ve worked with charities of all sizes and in all sectors, helping them to community clearly with their audience and build human connections.

If you’ve got a project to discuss, get in touch.

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Charity copywriting questions

What are the key elements of effective charity copywriting?

Effective charity copywriting at 42group involves creating a powerful narrative that resonates emotionally with the audience. 

At 42group, we focus on storytelling that highlights the impact of your charity. We’ll use persuasive and clear language to inspire action and influence your audience. Effective copywriting can be used to convey the mission and values of your charity authentically and transparently. In our view, copy and content should be used strategically – to help your charity achieve your core aims (whether that’s increasing donations, driving traffic to your site, explaining your impact, or all three).

How can copywriting boost fundraising efforts for nonprofits?

At 42group, we understand that compelling copywriting is crucial for fundraising and charity income generation. 

Copywriting can’t do everything, but crafting messages that connect emotionally with potential donors and explain the impact donations can have is most effective.

Our charity copywriters aim to tell stories that motivate your audience to act – and explain what the impact of those donations will be.

Copywriters can’t force people to donate, and we know in the cost-of-living crisis, it’s a lot harder. But copywriting can present the best case for donations.

What strategies should be used for writing engaging charity campaigns?

We’ve outlined all this above in extensive detail, but writing engaging charity campaigns involves several strategies.

Firstly, you need to understand your target audience and tailor all messages to their values, interests, and emotions. At 42group, we try to use emotive storytelling to create a connection, using individual stories to humanise the charity and explain its impact.

The best copywriting – in the commercial world and the non-profit sector – uses clear, concise, and persuasive language combined with a compelling call to action. Achieve that, and you’ll do your best for your charity.

How does storytelling in charity copywriting influence donor engagement?

Storytelling is a powerful tool that charity copywriters use to create a personal connection with the audience. At 42group, we use storytelling to evoke empathy and emotional responses in your audience. This makes your charity and the case you’re focused on relatable and compelling. By telling real-life stories, we help potential donors (and existing givers) understand the tangible impact of their contributions. This boosts engagement, support and (hopefully) charitable giving.

What are the best practices for SEO in charity copywriting?

This could be a long list, but here we go…

We focus on integrating relevant keywords naturally into the content. This ensures the website is structured and tagged correctly for search engines, ensuring every page can be ranked by Google. 

As well as optimising existing pages, we can create valuable and shareable content that addresses common questions related to the charity sector. This, too, can improve search rankings and visibility for your charity.

How do we measure the success of copywriting in nonprofit marketing?

Every copywriting project should have clear and measurable objectives. What these are is up to you, but most of our clients use metrics like website traffic, engagement rates, conversion rates, and fundraising totals. 

We can help you to track these metrics, enabling you to evaluate the effectiveness of the copy. If something isn’t working, we can use these data and insights to adjust our strategies accordingly. 

What are common mistakes to avoid in charity copywriting?

Again, this could be a long list, but common charity copywriting mistakes include using jargon or overly complex language, failing to tell a compelling story, neglecting the call-to-action, and not focusing on the donor’s impact. 

Do we do this? No! At 42group, our in-house editors ensure that all copy is clear, relatable, and focused on your audience before we send it to you. It’s also checked for AI and plagiarism to give you total confidence in its quality.

How do you tailor charity copywriting for different audiences?

Good question. Tailoring charity copy involves understanding the different segments of your audience. By understanding their interests, demographics, and motivations, we can personalise messages that resonate with each group. We can use language and develop stories that align with their values, experiences, and interests.

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