Top 3 Nonprofit Writing Trends for 2016: Improve Your Publications and Proposals

top 3

by: Heather Stombaugh, CFRE, GPC -Grants Consultant, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

We nonprofit pros are flooded with so many reports and social media posts and blogs and podcasts and… so much noise about the nonprofit sector. Just think back to how many emails you received about #GivingTuesday! With that much clutter, it can be challenging to identify the tips and trends that will give your nonprofit competitive advantages. And if you’re not at least keeping pace with the pack, your nonprofit’s fundraising results won’t be the only thing to suffer.

Because I present almost every week of the year for Thompson Information Services, the Grant Professionals Association, CharityHowTo, and my own nonprofit clients, I read A LOT about nonprofit trends. Thinking back on everything I’ve read this year, here are the top three trends I think you should jump on NOW. Your New Year will be all the better for it!

1.      Data Visualization – Infographics, piktograms, dashboards… oh my! Data visualization is the presentation of data in a pictorial or graphical format. It’s how Digital Natives think, it’s what you see in social media, and it’s how the savviest of organizations (see charity:water) are making their voices heard above the white noise. Why? Because we understand a picture about 60,000 times faster than the written word. When we’re all competing for the same pennies, we need to get our messages into donors hearts and minds quickly. It’s true: pictures speak louder than words, especially in development.

2. Shorter, more concise publications – Let’s face it: most people aren’t going to read a 25 page annual report. Some people won’t even read a 10 page annual report. That’s why you’ve probably seen a lot written about shortening your report or even turning it into an infographic. But this focus goes beyond this one piece of collateral: we have very little time to capture people’s interest. For example, in the grants world, some reviewers and board members don’t read beyond the first page of a proposal. Some don’t read beyond the first or second paragraph. So shorten up those docs, and let images do some of the talking for you!

3. Impact = Outcomes – Far too often, nonprofits use outputs (the number of people served or the number of activities implemented) in place of outcomes. While serving hundreds of people or providing thousands of meals is important and admirable, it doesn’t tell me about impact, and people want to invest in organizations that show measurable results. Instead, show how their lives are better because of your work.

The work we do in nonprofit-land is a vital part of our economy, a change maker in communities, and the bridge to better lives for millions of Americans. Thank you, dear readers, for making the world a better place every day through your work.

Wishing you an amazing 2016,

Heather and the HUB Philanthropic Solutions team


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