Writing marketing collateral for a nonprofit is unique. It's different from other types of copywriting, because what you're selling doesn't have a dollar sign in front of it.
In order to promote a nonprofit cause with the written word, you have to be a good storyteller. You have to create buzz. And you have to do it on a shoestring budget (usually).
The nonprofit sector demands a higher level of message quality. For awhile now, organizations like TOMS and charity:water are attracting an audience through compelling causes and unforgettable stories.
In nonprofits, often what's being exchanged is not just a product or service. What's being exchanged is a life, a story, a cause.
Finding stories worth spreading
Messages worth spreading — the ones with the potential to go viral — are interesting and fascinating. They are the stories, videos, and photographs that people want to forward to their friends. They're the links they post on their Facebook walls and tweet out to followers.
Not because they owe you anything, but because great ideas and stories deserve to be shared.
If the copy you're writing for a nonprofit doesn't reflect that, then don't even bother. If you are not going to tell a tale of something remarkable, something truly ground-breaking, then you're wasting your time. You're either not marketing your offerings well, or what is being offered isn't worth being offered in the first place. Either way, you're out of a job.
If your service isn't worth someone's attention, your “customer” already knows it. She has already tuned you and your clever marketing messages our.
This applies to the for-profit sector, too
Businesses are catching on to the nonprofit causes making a dent in the universe. It's no longer sufficient to simple “sell” a product. It doesn't matter that people need it. It's not enough to have something people need (or even want). There are a dozen other options besides your product or service.
So what makes your offering special?
What people want — now, more than ever — is a story, a cause, a purpose for being a part of your organization.
And you can offer it to them.
What people really want
People want an ideal, something noble they can dedicate their lives to. And if you're asking someone to contribute to your nonprofit, they want those things even more.
As a communicator, it's your duty to do more than craft copy. You need to tell a story that people can get caught up in.
Come to think of it, that's not too different from marketing for any other type of organization.