Is the copy you write for your nonprofit organization truly reader-centered? You understand the importance of writing reader-centered copy, but are you doing it? There’s a quick way to test whether your copy puts readers first: count how often you’ve included the word you.
When you include the word you (and your) often, your writing will shift to a benefits-oriented style that tells readers what’s in it for them. It’s good practice and very important if you’re asking your readers to take action!
Does your nonprofit’s copy achieve a 3:1 you ratio?
Does you appear in your nonprofit’s copy more often than us, we, our and your organization’s name? A ratio of 3 :1 [you: we, our or us] is ideal (I picked up this suggested ratio from veteran copywriter Steve Slaunwhite years ago). Are you achieving it?
Like many other nonprofits, your organization does great work. So you (or your internal clients) want to tell your audiences all about it. You end up writing at length about “our mission”, “what we do”, “our programs and services”, etc.
Here’s copy pulled from a Volunteer page:
“Volunteers are the most important resource for charitable organizations like ours. At our organization, volunteer time and energy are essential to help us support people living with this condition.”
This copy then transitions into a recruitment call-to-action, but there’s not a you in sight. Is this sounding uncomfortably familiar?
Now here’s an example I refer to often, taken from the Alzheimer Society of Canada’s Volunteer page. By including you frequently, their copy really shines a light on the benefits that might appeal to the reader.
“Volunteering also helps you make a difference in your own life. You can:
– Use your professional skills in a new setting
– Meet other people who share your interests and passions
– Learn new skills and discover new talents
– Advance your career or gain experience and qualifications for future employment, scholarships, bursaries and academic programs
– Build your network and establish contacts in your field of interest
– Boost your health and reduce your stress
– Create a schedule that works for you
– Have fun!”
Need more convincing? Want inspiration from a big brand? You want to write as persuasively as the talent working for Apple does, right? In Kissmetrics analysis of Apple’s sales copy, they show how you is one of the “power words” the company uses to captivate.
And this article from Writing Commons digs deeper into the great things that happen to your copy when you use a you-centered style.
Now it’s your turn: take the YOU ratio copy test
It’s time to evaluate: does your nonprofit’s copy pass the you ratio copy test? It’s simple to do and definitely worth your time.
Select a block of copy to review – something that includes a call-to-action – and ensure you’re including more you than we. Your web copy can be a good place to start, so try evaluating the following pages:
- Program or event promotion/registration pages
(This ratio also works well in certain types of blog posts – like this one!)
Count the number of times you appears, versus we, our or us or your organization’s name. It might be helpful to print it out and circle these words using two coloured pens: a visual impressions can be very telling. Are you hitting a 3:1 ratio?
If yes, congratulations! You know how to write for your readers – and by doing so are more likely to inspire action.
If no, how close have you come?
If you didn’t hit a 3:1 ratio, start looking for opportunities to rewrite ‘we’ and ‘our’ statements as ‘you’ and ‘your’ statements. Rephrase your content in a way that speaks directly with your readers. It’s a skill worth practicing and you’ll start to see a shift in your writing style – and hopefully in the response you get from readers!
From now on, any time you write copy with a call-to-action, put it through the you ratio copy test before publication. Ensure maximum effect and resonance with your readers.
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