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Karen Luttrell

Have you ever considered writing for charities, nonprofits or social enterprises? Maybe you’ve wondered how you can apply your research and writing skills to help socially focused organizations make a positive change in the world.

Last year, I shared a NetWords blog post on this topic. This year, PWAC Toronto Chapter is holding a professional development panel about Writing to Change the World. I hope you can join us at this event on Feb. 21 at 7 p.m.

At the seminar, you’ll hear from Cathy Mann, academic coordinator and instructor for the Ryerson Fundraising Management program. Then Nandy Heule will tell us how she brings a news background to her writing for nonprofits in health and international development. To round out the panel, I’ll share some of my experiences working first as a nonprofit communications director, and then building a freelance business serving nonprofits.

To whet your appetite, let’s take a look at some of the challenges and opportunities identified in the 2013 Nonprofit Communications Trends Report by Kivi Leroux Miller. She surveyed 1,400 nonprofits for the report. I’ll also give you my take on what these trends mean for writers.

Finding: The top goal reported by nonprofits was to acquire new donors.
Opportunity/challenge for writers: Nonprofits need high-quality fundraising materials to help secure first-time donations. Read up on donor-acquisition strategies and campaigns.

Finding: Other goals include engaging community, building brand awareness and retaining current donors.

Opportunity/challenge for writers
: Strategic charities and nonprofits will increase their donor retention efforts. It takes a lot of time and money to find new donors, and most organizations lose a staggering amount of donors after the very first gift. To keep more donors happy and supportive, organizations need great thank-you letters and good follow-up communications that show donors how they’ve helped and how
they can make even more of a difference.

: The top challenge reported by nonprofit marketers and communicators was the lack of time to produce quality content.

Opportunity/challenge for writers
: There is a strong need for freelance writing support to produce content. However, the second most common challenge reported was lack of budget for direct expenses. Those who want to provide services to nonprofits must learn how to build trust quickly, prove the value they will provide, and have effective conversations about money in an extremely budget-conscious environment. The writer who can do this will have an edge in a market where writing support is badly needed but relatively few organizations have defined budgets and processes for hiring that support.

Finding: Inability to measure effectiveness and lack of clear strategy were the next two most common communications challenges reported.

Opportunity/challenge for writers: Writers who can provide guidance about communications strategy and link their work to demonstrable, measureable goals will have an advantage.

Finding: The type of content nonprofits said they would spend the most time on is e-mail newsletters. Facebook updates were the second highest.

Opportunity/challenge for writers: This is good news for freelance writers. It opens the door to regular contributions. Brush up on your e-mail and web writing skills and study the way nonprofits use Facebook.

Finding: Nonprofits communicate fairly often with their supporters: 75% of respondents e-mail their supporters at least monthly, and 49% will send mailings four times a year. Websites were listed as their most important channel, with 69% saying their website was very important.

Opportunity/challenge for writers
: A web savvy writer may be able to build long-term relationships to handle integrated campaigns with website writing, e-mail and social media services.

What would you most like to know about writing for nonprofits? What has experience shown you about writing to change the world? I hope you’ll join us on Feb. 21 and be part of the discussion.

Karen Luttrell has been leading digital marketing initiatives for more than 13 years. She offers writing, communications and social media services for nonprofits and socially responsible businesses. As VP Communications of PWAC Toronto Chapter, she manages the Twitter and Facebook accounts. Tweet your social media questions to her at @karenluttrell.


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Karen Luttrell


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