‘Read like an Alien’​ to improve your Organization’s Messaging

One of my favourite tips for assessing your organization’s communications is to read your material as if you are from another planet. Imagine you know nothing about your organization. You know nothing of the need you meet or the challenge you seek to overcome. You don’t understand why meeting this need is important even.

When you read as if you are an alien from another planet, you throw out all the background information you already understand. You hope that many of your donors already have much of this background too – but I think most people would agree that this is not always (or even mostly) the case.

As you are reading your material with fresh eyes, you should be asking yourself, “Do I care about this?”, “Do I want to know more?”, “Do I care about those affected by the challenge?”, “Do I see how the organization meets this important need?” and importantly, “Do I feel better knowing this organization is out there doing this work?”
You can be very concrete in doing this – highlight or underline any passages that are unclear or could be improved. Use a different colour to mark any passages that pass the test – the ones that make you care about the need (directly or indirectly) and how your organization meets it.

But be careful, as you seek to improve the impact of your collateral material, the aim is to make things as concise and impactful as possible – so that even though someone from another planet doesn’t know the history of your organization they see why it is important. So always aim to get to the root of things rather than overly delving into “informing” language.

We’ve already discussed how donors often don’t read what you send them. So be sure to keep text to a minimum, increase the visual appeal of pieces whenever possible and make sure that if you received it in the mail you would read it yourself. Because luckily for us, donors are human beings and not aliens.

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