Year End Copywriting Basics


Every organization has its own unique story.

But every year end appeal — regardless of the nonprofit — has some similar ingredients available to add urgency and increase response rates. Here are a few of the tried and true year-end rules we see generate returns:

  • Provide a Deadline. Do you need those dollars to start the next year strong? Is there a project that will go unfunded if you don't raise a certain amount by a certain date? Share that information in an authentic, honest way without giving a boy-who-cried-wolf vibe and trust your donors to step up.
  • Provide a Dollar Amount. Building on the previous idea ... If there's a dollar amount that will allow your group to hit budget, help another family or shelter another animal put it in your copy. Our minds are wired to latch onto specifics. Giving donors a tangible goal helps in that department.
  • Provide Outcomes. Testing has shown that donors aren't as interested in the myriad programs your organization has as much as the nitty gritty of real outcomes and real people/animals/etc helped by their investment in your work. Be clear and to the point — and make it plain as day their contributions are the fuel behind every kind and life-changing act.

What are your go-to copy standards for year end?

Discipline: The Undervalued Value

Face it. Discipline's a drag.

No one wants to impose discipline. Be the heavy. Stick-in-the-mud.  Curmudgeon.

Even fewer want to be on the receiving end.

No so the creative spark. Spontaneous. Fresh. Exciting.

Yet, I would contend that the difference between a flash of creativity and a creative professional is discipline.


  • It takes discipline to listen, especially when a client expresses concerns about an idea you’ve proposed, copy you’ve written, or a proposed design. The first instinct to defend your work; the more disciplined (and professional) response is to try and set aside prior conclusions and genuinely hear what is being expressed.
  • It takes discipline to produce, especially when you don’t feel like it. One of my earliest hires held a Hemmingway-esque view of writing … ever sure that as she waited, her muse would come. With all due respect to spontaneity, newsletter calendars, blog schedules, and production deadlines are more rigid in nature; to the more disciplined (professional) individual, inspiration is often an active, not merely passive, endeavor.
  • It takes discipline to maintain consistency and voice (build a brand), and at the same time be fresh and responsive. Especially when, in our quest for self-improvement, we come across an enthralling new approach or technique. The flash of brilliance is so powerful and immediate, it's often only the more disciplined (professional) person who will also maintain the long-term perspective
  • Double, or triple-checking your work. Making it to meetings on time. Taking care of nitty-gritty project details, even (especially!) those "beneath your pay grade." The daily opportunities to hone this skill–to strengthen the value–abound.

Unfortunately, I've found that discipline typically can't be enforced.

Like inspiration, it must be engendered…a process that hinges on the individual's own insight, impetus and initiative.

Maybe that's why I so prefer working with professionals.