Even if it is difficult for a fundraising professional to accept, sometimes the final copy for an appeal or e-appeal simply isn’t the best it could be. Oh, you know exactly what it needs to be the best. Possibly your professional copywriter or agency has told you why the approved copy is flawed, but you have to settle for not-quite-good-enough. It’s not that you are lacking; it’s that one of the less pleasant principles of fundraising is at play…

The best-crafted copy in the world is useless if those with the authority will not approve it

That’s a discouraging place to be in, but it is also reality – hopefully not always, but certainly from time to time. As someone who cares deeply about the success of your fundraising, it can make you feel like you have failed – your mission, and possibly yourself. The next time you are faced with the reviewer who responds, “Not a chance,” here are some steps that might lead to changes, or at least will give you assurance that you did all you could do.

  1. Take time to let the suggested edits percolate inside you. Sometimes it’s clearer what the reviewer objected to when you have thought about it more.
  2. Look for common concerns. Are there certain words that are like waving a red flag in front of an angry bull? If so, make a note to never allow those words again. (Sometimes a single word can make a reviewer say, “It’s all wrong!” It’s not a rational response, but it’s the reality you live with.) Do facts and figures constantly get questioned? If so, start sourcing all of them in the copy deck so it’s clear they have basis in reliable sources. Are some words or phrases always met with favor? Note those and reuse them.
  3. Try for a compromise. If a person asks for 15 changes, can you “give” them 8 but push back on 7? Letting the reviewer feel like he or she has won the battle of editing can keep you from having to make the most painful edits.
  4. Explain your position if you feel that an edit really will impact results. In a letter, this is often a weakening of the opening or P.S., or a loss of focus on the donor. You may not win consensus, but over time, you may see a shift in thinking.

As a fundraiser, it’s natural to feel protective of copy that has the best chance of raising the most money. But remember this hard-to-swallow principle and you may find it easier to find more common ground when it comes getting copy approved.