Founder shares 5 tips to write for nonprofits for those entering the field

  • Jim Elliott

    Jim Elliott

By Jim Elliott
Updated 12/15/2021 11:02 AM

It's important to remember that as a nonprofit you are still a business. Many nonprofits are created by well-intended entrepreneurs who have a true passion for what they are doing.

They hopefully inspire and motivate others to believe in their mission and vision and to follow them. Some are better writers than others. As a trained journalist, with decades in the media business, I'm hoping to give young writers entering the nonprofit space a leg up so that they can move their nonprofit forward faster.


First, it's all about the story. Stories stick, facts fade. People will remember a story that touches them more than they will remember what percentage of the population does this or that. Not that facts aren't important. Just think about how to present your facts in a way that your audience will remember. Stories help and people can relate more to stories than straight facts.

Know your audience. A little research goes a long way. If you're in a room presenting to a group, take the time to walk the room and get to know folks attending the event.

You'll be able to articulate thoughts that will resonate with them while there and pulling up those stories later will help with follow-up communications. If it's written communication, grab their attention fast, attract them into your story and give them a reason to keep reading. Knowing your audience will benefit you as you draw them into the story so that you can deliver your message or your ask.

Repeat your key ask. Your audience will not remember all the ideas that you want to share with them in an article, blog, podcast or presentation. So if you can get your key thought or thoughts across in different ways, at the end of the day the audience will remember those main take-away points.

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How many ways can you say the same thing without letting your audience know that you are repeating yourself? They won't remember everything, so help them remember one thing. Running your paper or presentation by a trusted co-worker, friend or mentor will go a long way.

Be genuine, humble, and sincere. Know your material. Be very comfortable with it and be able to articulate it in a way that is natural so that your audience can relate and trust you. The sooner you win your audiences' trust, the sooner that your message will resonate with them.

Present it first to trusted confidants and be open to their input. It will help you grow as a writing professional.

Use language that everyone will understand and remember. Using a nonthreatening, loving language in your presentation will help you quickly gain the trust of your audience.

Don't talk down to them. Your future donors, volunteers, supporters and partners need to be able to relate to you and your message. Again, knowing your specific audience applies here as well. The language you use should be purposely crafted to speak to your audience as it relates to education, age, as well as, any other cultural nuances that might need to be considered.


Remember, every point of communication is important. Finally, don't be afraid to learn through your mistakes.

No one ever gets it right the first time. As unpleasant as it may be at first, welcome critics and hear what they say. In the long run, they might contribute to your growth as a writer.

• Jim Elliott is the founder of Diveheart, a nonprofit tax-exempt 501(c) (3) organization. Diveheart's purpose is to provide and support educational scuba diving programs that are open to any child, adult, or veteran with a disability, with the hope of providing both physical and psychological therapeutic value to that person.

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