Why you should put yourself second

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Writers and organizations generally put themselves first when making appeals for money. Here’s why you should put yourself second…

I’ve been helping a client of mine with a big fundraising request. Confidentiality prevents me from sharing too many details, but I can tell you they need to raise $200,000.

They’re not a really large organization so this represents a huge stretch goal for them. Worse, the funds are needed for a project that’s coming up relatively quickly, so they don’t have much time. But here’s the really tricky bit: they need to look for the money outside of their usual orbit and in a different country.

Their initial idea was to write a letter. As soon as I heard that, I immediately suggested they produce a brochure instead. Why? Because a brochure would allow them to use photos and raising such a large sum depends in large part on making an emotional appeal. In terms of emotions a single photo is worth more than 1,000 words.

Then, when I went to edit the draft of the text, I noticed they hadn’t acknowledged the needs and interests of their potential donors. They assumed that their readers would have exactly the same needs as they do. But, because of the “orbit” these potential donors operate in, their needs and interests are utterly different.

Here’s what the professional communicator needs to understand: When you’re writing, always begin with the end in mind. Put your own problems and concerns second and those of your readers, first. Ironically, that’s the best possible way to ensure you get what you want. Repeat after me: Put yourself second.


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