Resource Roundup: 7 Tools to Boost Your Writing Skills in 2017

Last week, I asked for new skills in the new year. This week, I figured I’d share what I already know with you, because #sharingiscaring. I’ve rounded up the best word-a-rific resources I’ve discovered — or rediscovered — in 2016. Enjoy!

  1. Your Essential Proofreading Checklist – Proofreading means so much more than catching typos. Especially when you go from writing in your own voice to the voice of your non-profit. You have to start thinking about things such as brand consistency, tone, and flow. So that we don’t feel too overwhelmed to even start, Hubspot put together this handy checklist.
  2. Readability Calculator – Sounding erudite is overrated. People want content that they can digest quickly, usually by skimming. Don’t believe me? Check out these stats. But that doesn’t mean hope is gone for your carefully-crafted content to be read and enjoyed. Use a readability scoring tool to make sure you can be understood on the quick — and by everyone.
  3. The Thesaurus – Yes, this may seem obvious. But trust me, it’s not. Too many times, I’ve heard the adage, if you need to use a thesaurus, then your word is too complicated — or something like that. And I couldn’t disagree more. Just because a word isn’t on the tip of our tongues doesn’t mean it’s a bad choice. We already know that unique words get more attention. Which brings me to the next resource….

  4. The Wordifier – It’s like a thesaurus, but better. Find out how frequently any word is used across nonprofit websites. Why? To figure out if you need to choose something a bit more dazzling. Also, you can easily find alternatives if your word does happen to be overused.

  5. 128 Words to Use Instead of Very – I came across this infographic earlier this year, and I kind of fell in love. Very is the writing equivalent of taking the easy way out. With so many simple yet descriptive words in our gorgeous language, never settle for very again.

  6. Kivi’s Weekly E-Newsletter – If you’re like me, you get too much email. And most of it feels like junk. So, when something engaging and useful comes through the noise, I feel grateful. Enter Kivi’s weekly e-newsletter. While each week is full of great tips and reflections on non-profit communications, my favorite part is the once-a-month, timely writing prompts that can cure even the most stubborn writer’s block.

  7. Claxon University – Claxon U is the place to go to get trained up on doing more good with your words. It’s an online course designed specifically for nonprofit professionals who want to up their communications game. Plus, there’s a special deal going on now through December 31, 2016, so I’d hurry on over if I were you.

What writing resources have you found helpful this year? Share the knowledge in the comments below, or tweet to us @ClaxonMarketing!

3 Easy Ways to Super Size Your GiveBIG Success

TSF_GiveBig_logo_Theme_BLUGiveBIG is King County’s annual day of giving. Spearheaded by The Seattle Foundation, this is a stupendous opportunity for local nonprofits to get donors engaged and get in on some matching fund action.

HOWEVER, there are 1600+ nonprofits vying for people’s attention leading up to, and on the day of, this Give-a-Palooza. Standing out from the crowd is a must.

This is an online campaign, so eblasts are flying like crazy. You’ve got to nail your subject line. Not to sound alarmist, but it can make or break the success of your GiveBIG efforts.

Here are 3 tips for writing click-worthy subject lines:

  1. Make it a question: Subject lines written as questions have an open rate that is, on average, double that of other types of subject lines.
  2. Use ‘you and your’: These are called “self-referencing cues”. Using them makes it about the reader. And academic research tells us that’s a good thing.
  3. Use the word ‘why’: For example, ‘Why you should care about next Tuesday’. It suggests that by opening the email, the reader will find out why. Our brains feel out of sorts until we know the answer. And therefore your readers are motivated to find out.

Here’s how you could super size your success by putting these tips together (like combo meals for your subject lines):

Do you know why next Tuesday is such a big deal?

Why you’re our hero.

You and your awesomeness needed next Tuesday


Here’s the headline you should NOT write: “GiveBIG to [insert the name of your organization]”.

It’s not about you and your organization. It’s about the difference you’re making in the community, on behalf of the people you serve. Make it about them and how the donor can be part of that awesome work. They are the heroes.


The 4 Personalities of Tom Ahern

Tom Ahern, fundraising, nonprofits, non profit,
Tom Ahern, from his site, looking young and happy in France!

Do you have a specific type of reader in mind when you write your fundraising appeal, newsletter, brochure, blog, Facebook post…? You should. This is where personas come in.

Creating a full-blown persona can feel arduous. Thank goodness for Tom Ahern! He gives us four handy personalities to consider when embarking on mission-motivated writing.

  1. Amiable: They crave a good story and engaging images.
  2. Expressive: They want something new. Program, website, trends, reports. New=good.
  3. Skeptical: They’re into facts and supporting evidence. FAQs, testimonials and proof points will make them happy.
  4. Bottom-liner: They’re looking for a very specific, actionable call to action (CTA). Make it easy for them to know what to do.

Each of us has a bit of each of these personalities in us and so do the people you’re trying to engage. Write accordingly. You might mix a bit of amiable with a dose of skeptical for your fall newsletter and then for your year-end appeal, get expressive with some bottom-line.

The point: For best results, write with a specific personality in mind.

Do you communicate as effectively as you think?


Do you communicate as effectively as you think?