GuideStar Blog

Bullet Lists Can Drain the Life from Your Fundraising—or Pump Up the Energy—Here's How

Yawning infant wearing a knitted cap and lying on plaid fabricBullet points are normally a helpful tool for making what youve written more readable.

When you have several similar points you need to make, a bulleted list can: 

  • Introduce visual variety, which increases readability.
  • Turn what would have been a long paragraph into an easily scannable entry point.
  • Organize your thinking, thus making it more clear.
  • Lower the reading level of your copy. 

All good.

But let me show you a type of bulleted list that hurts fundraising results: A list of program attributesIn an appeal asking donors to support a poverty fighting program, it might list what beneficiaries will get: 

  • A quality education
  • Basic medical care
  • Nutritious food 

Just a list of attributes. Important things, but boring.

Actually, worse than boring. It draws the eye, possibly away from something interesting, motivating, and about the donor ... and it delivers almost nothing to the reader.

Remember, people dont donate to fund programs. They give to make things happen.

So to make sure your bulleted lists speak to their motivations, you might take those attributes and make it a list of the problems they solve: 

  • Without a quality education, the children have little chance of improving their futures.
  • Lacking basic medical care, far too many are dying from preventable diseases.
  • Because they dont get enough nutritious food, they're suffering the devastating and long-term impact of malnutrition. 

Or make it about the donor with a list of what theyll make possible when they give: 

  • Youll provide a quality education that will transform the kids' lives.
  • Youll give them basic medical care that will keep them healthy and even saves their lives.
  • Youll supply nutritious food that will fill their empty tummies today and keep them healthy and full of energy. 

(Tip: If all—or even some—of your list items have the word you in them, you are more likely on the right track.)

Dont waste your time (and your readers attention) with merely listing attributes. Make it interesting. Make it about the donor!

This post is reprinted from Future Fundraising Now.

Extreme close-up of Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for nearly 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you'll join him in that opinion.

Topics: fundraising writing Fundraising Communications Donor Communications