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How Profitable Is Nonprofit Copywriting?

When it comes to fundraising, many organizations turn to copywriting—the art of persuading potential donors that your organization is worth supporting. However, do the people who buy your ink and paper products, or the ones who click on your online fundraising page, really care about your mission? Does writing for profit help support non-profits? Can a small agency or in-house studio generate enough revenue to make a significant difference?

These questions have a simple answer: sometimes (but not always). Let’s take a look.

Is Writing For Profit Worthwhile?

In general, when an organization or business pursues commercial gain from a non-profit endeavor, it’s considered unethical and often a major red flag. For example, many large food companies heavily promote themselves as being socially responsible, kind of like a green beanie for corporations. However, if you look at their financials, you’ll notice that most of their revenues stem from selling products with high profit margins which, in turn, support the unsustainable practice of mass food production. So, while the company may have a good cause, it’s highly likely that their “commercial objectives [are] at odds with their social objectives.”

Does that mean that all commercial activity is bad? Of course not. However, it does mean that you should be mindful of where your commercial incentives may lead you, especially if you’re pursuing an organization or business that is focused on a specific sector (e.g., energy or sustainability).

Why Should Nonprofits Research Their Market Value?

The profit margin in most industries is dismal. That’s why most large food companies have to rely on hefty subsidies to stay in business. The same goes for many large pharmaceutical companies. So it’s not uncommon for non-profits to partner with businesses, especially in the sector where they operate, to gain access to more affordable goods and services.

Even in the case of a non-profit that’s focused on providing social services, research can help them understand what their market value is, and in turn, how they can gain more support from potential donors. They may find that having a greater understanding of their community’s needs and wants allows them to connect more effectively with the people they serve. Market research, in other words, is a crucial tool for any non-profit. The key is to find a reputable source that provides solid, objective data.

How Do I Measure My Nonprofit’s Success?

There are several ways that a non-profit administrator can measure the effectiveness of their fundraising campaign. The most obvious is by looking at the money that they’ve raised, either online or through other channels (e.g., mail solicitations). If you’re curious, you can use a tool like Fundraising Effectiveness Score to evaluate your campaign. You get a numerical score based on four criteria: annual giving, online participation, text messaging, and conversion rate.

Is that score higher than your marketing department’s benchmark? Are you doing something right, or are you missing something? The best case scenario is that you find the cause for which you’re fundraising and can contribute to its success. The worst case scenario is that you don’t find a cause worth supporting, and then you’re forced to look for funding elsewhere.

Fundraising Is A Long Process

As mentioned, fundraising is a long process. It can take months or even years to see the results of your efforts. During that time, you and your team will be following up with potential donors, seeking to maintain interest in your organization’s mission while also encouraging potential contributors to make a financial commitment.

Sometimes, that means getting creative. For example, you may need to adjust your pitch based on the resources or interests of the recipient. Or you may want to follow up with a phone call, rather than an email, to remind them of your organization’s existence and to thank them for their support.