Carrie Cousins

Carrie Cousins has more than 15 years of experience in media, design, and content marketing and is a freelance writer and designer.

Aug 10, 2021
Published on: GiveWP
1 min read

“Brevity is the soul of wit.” – from Shakespeare’s Hamlet

This idiom applies to all forms of writing, including nonprofit storytelling.

While long form writing does have its place, the ability and application of telling a story quickly, concisely, and directly can help increase understanding and inspire more rapid action. For nonprofits, that action can be gifts or signing up to volunteer.

The thing to keep in mind is the brevity does not mean lacking of information and details. Every good story will still have a beginning, middle, and end with a key character and element of conflict.

Why Brevity in Nonprofit Storytelling Matters

Brevity is more important now than ever because attention spans seem to keep decreasing all the time. In a world where you are competing in the live and virtual space for attention, a brief story and call to action is more likely to get through to someone than a tale that goes on for a long period of time.

This is partially due to social media and reading everything in short bursts:

“Our collective attention span is indeed narrowing, and that this effect occurs — not only on social media — but also across diverse domains including books, web searches, movie popularity, and more.”
– Technical University of Denmark

So, there’s scientific proof to back up the idea that brevity matters. If you want to tell a story, you need to

  1. Focus on your audience
  2. To tell the right story at the right time
  3. In a quick and concise manner
  4. With a direct call to action

Here’s the bottom line for nonprofit storytelling: The quicker you can get to the action, the more likely it is to result in a conversion. If someone gets lost in the story or it is too long and they stop before the call to action, you’ve missed a potential fundraising win.

What Does Brevity Really Mean?

If your head is spinning as you consider how to cut your nonprofit story down into smaller elements, take a moment to pause.

Creative writing brevity is just a process. Think of it as another way to tell the same story (or stories) that you’ve been communicating, while stripping out some of the extraneous material.

Here’s how to incorporate brevity into your writing style.

  • Start with a purpose or goal. What do you want the story to do? Every element of the story should lead to that purpose.
  • Frame the story in one idea per interaction. Even for blog posts, use the same mentality that you would for social media: a single idea with supporting data or an actionable item.
  • Trim out all the explanations. A supporting fact is ok, three supporting elements are often unnecessary when you are writing in the short form.
  • Use list formats with bullets or numbers to make more complex elements of your story easier to scan. Fundraising can have multiple layers of complexity. Brevity is as much a reading perception as word count. If a user looks at the information and it seems easy and quick to read, there’s very little cognitive pressure making it more likely for them to proceed. Lists, in particular, make content seem lighter and less intimidating.
  • Read everything out loud and edit out any words that you feel like you could skip. Reading should feel like talking.

5 Ways to Keep Fundraising Storytelling Concise

The secret to brevity in nonprofit storytelling is planning.

Before you ever write the first word, set a goal for the story. Now every word, and every ask in that story should relate to the goal.

  1. Start with a great hook. Craft a sentence that gets readers excited.
  2. Use descriptive and actionable words without long descriptions or explanations.
  3. Focus on conflict or tension to keep interest in relation to the goal of the story.
  4. Use short-form elements to support the story, such as a chart, image, or data point.
  5. Make a direct ask with an actionable user interface element, such as a donation form.

Creative Writing (And Editing) Best Practices

For the most concise nonprofit storytelling, you need to do two things:

  1. Cut any words that don’t matter. (Edit, edit, and edit again.)
  2. Structure sentences using active voice. (It makes them shorter!)

When it comes to nonprofit storytelling, writing with brevity has an additional challenge. You are trying to show your passion while generating gifts. Think of this as a singular goal and follow these best practices when crafting your story.

  • Write in short, direct sentences that are 20 words or less.
  • Avoid technical language, acronyms, and jargon.
  • Break text into short paragraphs or lists.
  • Tell a story with a beginning, middle, and end.
  • Generate an emotional element that people will connect with.
  • Edit and re-edit.
  • Don’t forget the call to action.

Tell Your Story

Now it is time to tell your story. GiveWP can help with tools that boost fundraising storytelling with elements such as forms, dashboards, and counters that increase engagement, make stories easy to understand, and inspire action.

Learn more about how you can use your GiveWP data to create brief actionable impact reports for your donors.