Anyone who grew up reading Peanuts, will probably remember the strips where Snoopy is sitting on top of his kennel, about to start writing his first novel.
He rarely got beyond the first paragraph, which always seemed to start with the sentence, "It was a dark and stormy night."
His literary frustrations sum up a very important truth – good writing (particularly good fundraising writing) is very hard work.
As a result of his ongoing struggle with his typewriter, Snoopy became adopted by writers throughout the world as a kindred spirit in their endeavours to fill a pile of blank pages with a great story.
Following Charles Schulz's death in 2000, a group of them (including Ray Bradbury, Danielle Steel, Elmore Leonard and William F. Buckley, Jr.) put together a tribute to the cartoonist in the form of a guide for the struggling writer – Snoopy's Guide to the Writing Life.
Though it's aimed at the aspiring novelist, it's great reading for fundraisers too. It demonstrates that to be successful, a writer has to understand his audience and provide them with a story that they will want to read.
Another of the contributing authors, Clive Cussler, summed it up very well when he said....
"Don't use desperately boring descriptions to elaborate on something technical or dole out heavy explanation for nothing detail. The reader will ignore it and be bored."
It's an incredibly important piece of advice for fundraisers.
Using technical language and industry jargon or focusing on the charity's policies and how it works will turn off all but the most dedicated supporters. As a result, income will be lost.
Tom Ahern put it rather well when he described a fundraising appeal as "nothing but a love letter to the prospect".
And as Snoopy demonstrates, even in a love story, those unneccessary details make for uncomfortable reading (no matter that they are factually correct).