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4 types of nonprofit writing and tips for a strong message

March 21, 2022
This nonprofit professional is looking down at her notebook with a pen in her hand before she begins to write.

Writing is an essential practice for nonprofit organizations. With the right messaging, you can connect with supporters, communicate your need for grant funding, promote your programs and initiatives, and raise awareness for your purpose.

Nonprofit writing can take many forms, from email newsletters and social media updates to fundraising appeals and grant proposals. Regardless of its purpose or audience, each message relies on compelling writing to make an impact. To help your organization communicate more effectively, we’ll walk through some common types of nonprofit writing and tips for excelling at them.

Nonprofit impact story

nonprofit impact story explains how your organization has used charitable donations to bring about positive change in the community. Communicating real, on-the-ground impact in your nonprofit writing is essential for retaining current donors and securing new financial support.

Here are a few tips for crafting a strong impact story:

  • Choose one protagonist. To effectively illustrate your nonprofit’s impact, focus on a single protagonist, such as a beneficiary whose life has been positively impacted by your programs and services. Narrowing the scope of your story down to one person helps supporters associate a name and a face to your nonprofit, as well as understand the tangible impact of their donations.
  • Make it relatable. Help your audience relate to the protagonist in your story by describing their journey, from the initial challenge to overcoming it. People are no strangers to struggle, so get them invested in the triumph of helping others conquer obstacles.
  • Inspire empathy. Use powerful, evocative language to appeal to supporters’ emotions. Incorporate data to help highlight your organization’s impact, but remember that it’s often empathy that inspires people to act.

At the end of the day, a good story is a good story, so follow basic best storytelling practices in your nonprofit writing for impact.

Grant writing

Grant funding provides substantial revenue to drive your nonprofit’s growth and purpose. Although the process of applying for grants can require intensive research and planning, it's often well worth the investment. As you embark on writing your nonprofit’s next grant proposal, use these tips to guide your efforts:

  • Make it specific. Your grant proposal should be tailored to the specific grantmaker you’re seeking funding from. The key to a successful grant application is ensuring that your nonprofit’s values and purpose align with that of the grantmaking organization. Be clear on what your nonprofit intends to accomplish with the funding and the impact you’re seeking to drive.
  • Connect to your purpose. Your organization’s purpose is what drives all of your efforts and daily operations, so use it to power your nonprofit writing. This would be an ideal opportunity to share your nonprofit’s impact story.
  • Incorporate data. Supplementing your claims with relevant data will allow your nonprofit to more effectively communicate your impact and how grant funding can make a difference toward furthering your organization’s purpose.

Your primary goal with grant proposals is to leave a strong, memorable impression on funders and compel them to act in support of your nonprofit. Typically, your grant proposal will center on a specific project that funders will help make possible, so focus on writing about the realistic impact that the project will achieve with grant funding.

Email and social media updates

Modern technology has shifted a significant portion of human interaction online. Nowadays, people can catch up with friends and family, shop, and even donate in support of a cause—all by tapping or clicking on a digital screen. Email newsletters and social media posts are productive ways for your nonprofit to interact with supporters and keep them engaged in your day-to-day operations.

To help your digital nonprofit writing stand out from the crowd:

  • Use compelling visuals. Powerful imagery and graphics can attract your audience’s attention and illustrate your nonprofit’s purpose all in a single glance. In your email and social media updates, consider sharing images of your volunteers at work, featuring your beneficiaries, or spotlighting loyal donors to show appreciation for their support.
  • Make it memorable and shareable. Always tie your nonprofit writing back to your purpose. Focus on creating high-quality content to encourage supporters to share it with their personal networks on social media, and make sure your posts contain links to your organization’s website and donation page for those interested in engaging further.
  • Focus on authenticity. Take advantage of how email and social media can facilitate connecting with your supporters by sending frequent updates on your organization’s current projects and impact. Give your audience a closer look at the work that goes into effecting positive change with behind-the-scenes content.

Depending on their demographics or interests, your audience may prefer different communication channels, so diversify your outreach across platforms to help your nonprofit writing reach as many people as possible.

Bonus nonprofit writing tip: Know your audience

From grant applications to social media posts, the golden rule for telling a successful story is to know your audience. The more you know about your audience, the more effective you can be with your communications. Make the most of your donor management software to gather and manage information about your supporters, then use those details to tailor your nonprofit writing according to their interests and values. 

Personalized messages are more likely to resonate with donors and inspire their meaningful support. For more tips on how to tell engaging stories that encourage donors to act, check out our Nonprofit Storytelling Guide.

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    Supporter Engagement
  • Nonprofits
  • Digital communications & marketing