Copywriting Best Practices During COVID-19

Copywriting Best Practices During COVID-19

November 25, 2020

Copywriting has become an increasingly effective tool for reaching and engaging a target audience. However, many organizations struggle to create and publish content that truly resonates with readers. 

Research shows online readers heavily scan material, with only an estimated 20% of page content being consumed. With this in mind, organizations must focus on how to get their key messages across clearly and concisely.  Luckily, there are many experts experienced in how to craft compelling copy that leads to action.

In October 2020, the third annual WE Prosper Summit was held virtually due to the pandemic. The event featured in-depth discussions on timely topics including copywriting, marketing, fundraising, and more. 

Designed for clients and partners, the summit is designed to provide knowledgeable insights for identifying and cultivating high-potential donors in any economy. Obviously, this year’s event featured a strong focus on how to adapt and plan fundraising initiatives in light of the repercussions COVID-19 has had on the world financial climate.

The 2020 WE Prosper Summit features keynote addresses with expert analysis and tips from authorities and peers from across the fundraising industry. One of those professionals is Tom Ahern, President of Ahern Communications, Inc. Tom sat down with Raj Khera, Executive VP and Chief Marketing Officer of WealthEngine, to discuss some copywriting best practices for COVID-19.

‘When You Like Your Donors, They Like You Back’

Tom describes his copywriting best practices as #Principles of Donor Communications. As principle number one, he believes: “When you like your donors, they like you back.” This finding is based on research conducted by the Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy.

Easy, Consistent, Cohesive Messaging

When crafting content, it’s vital to make your messaging clear. “That’s, of course, what you always want to do, is to make communications easy for the target audience,” Tom advises.



The Power of Word Clouds

Demonstrating the power of word clouds, Tom points to a survey conducted by the Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy, in which donors were asked just two questions:

  • How would you describe yourself using five or fewer adjectives?
  • When you think about your support of a cause, what five or fewer adjectives come to mind?

In this example, there may be some repeat answers from donors. “You get two word clouds, and where those two word clouds overlap is where your sweet spot is, where the best language is for you to use,” Tom adds.

  • What Are Word Clouds?

Word clouds are groups of words that are placed together. The more frequently a word appears, the bigger and bolder the word looks in the cloud.

The word cloud depicted above illustrates the power of this visual tool. Using the example of the survey mentioned earlier, each adjective given in response to the questions asked were placed in a word cloud. Each time a word was repeated, its appearance became larger and bolder.

Once all answers are compiled, you’re left with a word cloud that looks similar to the graphic shown. These visuals can help you succinctly communicate with your target audience.

Reaching Your Target Audience

For your sales copywriting efforts to be persuasive, you must have a firm understanding of your target audience and engage with them. In this context, a target audience is a demographic of people, or donors, who are most likely to be interested in your cause.


As the graphic above illustrates, a target audience consists of individuals who share similar traits. These groups of people are assessed using information such as:

  • Behaviors
  • Location
  • Gender
  • Ethnicity
  • Race
  • Age group
  • And much more

By accurately deciphering who your target audience is, you can gain valuable insights into how this group operates and what it prioritizes most.

Dave from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution

Dave is a volunteer for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. As COVID-19 hit his organization hard, Dave shares how he created the effective messaging seen on the institute’s website. 

A message featured on the site’s homepage reads: “You’re a part of our crew and crew members look out for each other. Watch a special message for you.” Following this text is a video that incorporates inclusive language to ensure donors that everyone is part of the crew and all contributions make a lasting impact. 

The organization found these words based on the same two-question survey originally developed by the Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy.

Jen Shang’s Philosophy of Giving Behavior

Jen Shang is a psychologist specializing in the behavior of giving. “She’s saying, right now, your donors, because of COVID, feel paralyzed, confined, victimized, disarmed, powerless,” Tom notes.

Depending on the focus of your communications, Jen asserts your audience could feel “connected to a bigger world, cared for, listened to, part of something.” She also mentions they could feel capable, which is important for human well-being. “We need to feel like we’re doing something, and doing good for others is a wonderful thing you can do right now,” Jen adds.

Feelings Lead to Action

When Raj and Tom spoke for the first time, Raj asked a few very important questions: “Are major donors different? Do they speak a different language?” Tom’s simple answer was, “Not so much.”

“We are a social species. That urge to cooperate, all of that, is actually chemical. It’s in your brain and it’s there,” he observes.

Tom also discusses what inspires action for donors. He talks about an important discovery made by Dr. Donald Calne, a Canadian neurologist specializing in Parkinson’s disease research. In his findings, the doctor concluded that feelings lead to action. 

Tom summarizes, “Not reason leads to action, feelings lead to action. Reason leads to more thinking. Feelings lead to action.” 

Another important piece of information comes from neurologist and psychiatrist Dr. Viktor Frankl. After conducting psychological research, he concluded that humans need purpose. According to Dr. Frankl, “That’s what a charity can bring to me, through its communications, a sense of purpose over and over and over.”

WealthEngine’s WE9 comprehensive platform offers a variety of proprietary tools including Wealth Search, WE Analyze, and its Donor Pyramid Modeler for unmatched donor list segmentation solutions. To experience how WealthEngine can assist your organization, request a free demo.

Adapted from presentation by Tom Ahern.

Tom Ahern Bio:

In 2016, the New York Times called Tom Ahern “one of America’s most sought-after creators of fund-raising messages.”

Recent clients include Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford University, USA for UNHCR (refugees), the Sharp Healthcare system in San Diego, Save the Children Global, Lollypop Farm (animal rescue, Rochester, NY), Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Junior Achievement, Teach for America and Chabad on Campus.

His specialty? Changing underperforming donor communications programs into major moneymakers, using the latest discoveries in psychology and neuroscience. He has authored six how-to books on donor communications and speaks internationally.