How to Review Fundraising Writing Fast

By Laurence A. Pagnoni, MPA

Do you spend a lot of time revising documents produced by fundraisers? Many CEOs have complained to me privately about this.

I’m talking about drafts of grant proposals, LOIs, donor appeal letters, fundraising reports, cases for support, newsletters, even donor emails—documents like that. If so, this brief guidance is for you.

Over the years I’ve observed that before marking up the entire document, the executive’s role is to first make a determination as to its overall quality.

A first determination is a quick assessment. This is where the time-saving aspect comes in.

Here are three major categories I use to quickly determine the quality of the document.

  1. NO WAY: The draft is not acceptable, please rewrite it, and here’s what’s wrong.
  2. YES, BUT: It’s really good, but here are minor edits as shown in track-changes.
  3. RIGHT DIRECTION, BUT: It’s a good first draft, but here are some major changes that I’d like to see for the second draft.

Sometimes I give this feedback by email, but I generally prefer a short phone call with the author to give the feedback personally.

Obviously, if the document is perfect as is, say thank you, be grateful, and move on.

These points apply to all professional or technical writing.

I have editing tips that I can share with you if you email me privately, but I’d bet you have your own approach to that. The step suggested here—determining quality—is meant to take place BEFORE you start editing.

As an aside, a resource I rely on is anything written by the forward-thinking author Tom Ahern, especially his short tome: How To Write Fundraising Materials That Raise More Money. Tom writing considers how donors read (or not) our appeal letters and he’s been able to document higher response rates using his approaches.

We welcome your comments about this post on the LAPA blog.

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