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Non-profits | April 18, 2024 | By Monika Halsan

Simplifying your non-profit content

I’m noticing a strong pattern in non-profits: With so much to say, so much to share, they try to say everything – and end up saying nothing.

In this post, we’ll explore ways to structure your content to stick to your main train of thought – and define some tips and tricks to improve your copy. So let’s see… how can you simplify your non-profit content when you have so much important to share?

A person writing in a notebook.

TL;DR

  1. Outlining a brief will help keep your focus on one specific topic.
  2. Critically evaluate the content’s relevancy to your call to action.
  3. Help readers scan your content with visual cues and spacing.
  4. Don’t copy-paste ChatGPT without first editing the content.

Structuring your content

I believe one of the main reasons people write too much is that they’re not following a structure.

They need to answer topic A, and they’re used to adding the whole alphabet. So they end up repeating themselves over and over, with just the first letter of the alphabet changing and perhaps some letter-swapping.

But it would be more effective to only talk about a specific letter at a time, and throw in some related ones every now and then. Let’s explore some further ways to structure your content:

01. Start with a brief

You don’t have to spend hours and hours on your brief. But briefs can have the potential to save you hours and hours.

You should cover a few essential topics:

  • Choose your one topic—and stick to it throughout!
  • A rough outline—suggesting titles and headers provides structure.
  • Background/search intent—explain why this content is of interest.
  • Suggested word count and content format—optimise for your medium.
  • Define target audience—content and writing style may depend on the reader.
  • Internal and external links—use as inspiration and to add essential guidance.
  • Know what visuals you’ll need—get the ball rolling on this as soon as possible.
  • The call to action—your content should drive them towards a primary action.
  • The emotions you want to evoke—match your tone of voice to the desired emotions.
  • Define a deadline—avoid perfectionism, analysis paralysis etc. with a completion date.

02. Narrow your focus

Many try to say everything about their services, their history, their impact, their employees and beneficiaries, and even the office dog – and in the end, people are left confused and overwhelmed, not remembering anything.

Keeping your one topic in mind, evaluate your brief structure and the content you’ve produced and answer a few essential questions (be critical):

  1. Is it communicating what I want to say?
  2. Is any of this content less relevant?
  3. Am I missing any information?

If the answer to question 2 is yes but you think the content is strong, save it for later. Congratulations, you’ve just brainstormed another piece of content!

Essentially, you want everything you say to move your user closer to that call to action, whatever that might be.

03. Look at the structure

I’ve noticed a tendency to jump back and forth between content, getting in the way of a nice and intuitive flow.

Your main topic likely has a few sub-sections, and these should take the reader on a nice journey. Do not map your itinerary from A to V to O to I to D (see what I did with the letters there?).

Find similarities between sections, or other ways to transition between sections.

04. Get somebody to read it

You know what you are trying to say. You have the ins and outs in your mind, and thus automatically fill in any blanks, reading sentences the way you intended to write them.

Get somebody else to read your content. Ideally, this person should represent the target audience to best reflect their current knowledge and connection to the content.

Afterwards, ask them specific questions:

  1. What’s your main takeaway?
  2. How did you feel while reading?
  3. Did anything stand out as confusing?
  4. What do you feel like doing after reading it?

You want to ask open questions that don’t drive them towards a specific answer.

“Was there anything that stood out as confusing?” makes it easier to inform you of that paragraph that indeed was confusing, than if you asked them “Did you like my article?”.

Likewise, “How did you feel while reading?” allows them to define the emotion without you putting one into their mind.

Copywriting tips and tricks

There are many ways to optimise your content for a better user experience. Here are a few:

  • Read it out loud—helps you spot typos, sentences that sound off and so on. Just do it.
  • Remove excessive use of “very”—tools like LoseTheVery can make your copy more emotional.
  • Make it scannable—subheadings, bullet points, outlined key points etc. make your content easier to digest.

Using AI and ChatGPT

The temptation is real, isn’t it!

I am all for leveraging AI in content writing. BUT there are several pitfalls to look out for.

First, ChatGPT and the likes often love high word counts. Ask for a piece about any topic of your choice, and see how much of the content was necessary. How much unique information did it give you, and how much was either filler or repetitive?

ChatGPT prompt

Prompt: Please make this sound more professional: “Schedule a free strategy call to learn more below”

ChatGPT: “Kindly arrange a complimentary strategy consultation by clicking the link below to gain further insights.”

See what I mean?

“to gain further insights.” is redundant. “Strategy consultation” = more insight.

Besides, it’s using words that make me sound like an international student who’s been taught the proper way of English that no one really uses anymore. I would know, because I am one of those students, and I was taught to write like this.

Use AI for brainstorming, and even to read and evaluate your content (if no one can read and give you a second opinion, use AI as your friend). But whatever you do, don’t ask it to write you something and publish it unedited. People spot it from miles, and as a non-profit, trust and authenticity is key.

The main takeaway: KISS

There’s no wonder we end up writing too much. Especially if you’re writing for SEO, as many agencies advocate for lengthy articles to stuff in as much as you possibly can.

You need to know what you’re writing for:

If your purpose is mainly SEO, then fair enough, add as much relevant information as possible. But if, on the other hand, you want people to properly read and engage with your content, make it easily digestible, and just “keep it simple, stupid.”

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