Wanted: More Storytellers, Less Sausage Factory

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Ruth McCambridge

The last time I wrote in this column, I referenced an article entitled, “The Way We Write is All Wrong,” and asked you for examples of your favorite fundraising letters and emails. We got some great ones! Our intention is to award a subscription to the best of what we get. The jury on that competition will return next week, but in the meantime I find that I am not done with that topic.

First, I want to invite more letters from you all. And second I want to whine a little.

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For the past few days I have been reading proposals for an outfit I admire like crazy . . .

. . . and I am here to tell you, it’s not that much fun despite the fact that I am with a bunch of nice people.

Wading through pages and pages of language meant to impress—never interrupted by a story or example of something real . . . never mind a real decisive measure of success—it makes me worry about us.

Some of what is wrong about our writing (performance monitoring) in this sector seems to be an undying affection for the rhetoric of the day (evidence based). This tendency, which I realize is sometimes perversely encouraged by funders who have to read it,  results sometimes in whole paragraphs of strung together words and phrases from which the reader can discern nothing substantive (appropriate redundancy, assessment of impact, consistent oversight, social entrepreneurism).

It’s like putting your program through a sausage making machine. The result? No one can tell what’s in the meat anymore. I think we need some plain speak classes that allow us to escape from the prison of oft used and relatively meaningless language into language that speaks clearly and even evocatively to our fellow humans.

Anyway, I thought I would attach an article that reminds us about storytelling in our work and, of course, send us those fundraising letters so that you are in the running for a FREE SUBSCRIPTION!

  • Glen Macdonald

    Well put. As Perla Ni once remarked: “Numbers supress empathy”.
    David Brown attempted to connect us in 2006. Would be interested in updating you on W&GF.
    Glen Macdonald