If You Give A Mouse A Nonprofit Annual Appeal

If_you_Give_a_Mouse_a_CookieI just received a great spring nonprofit annual appeal letter in the mail for a nonprofit day camp in the woods. It referenced and used the style of the book “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” to create “If you give a kid a campership.”

I loved the concept. What a creative way to attract parents! But why was the execution a bit clunky and formal? Campership may be grammatically correct but has any parent ever used that term?

Anyone who has written this type of letter knows how this can happen.

A copywriter or creative development professional comes up with a fun idea like this one. He or she writes an interesting appeal and the higher-ups read it, smile, and offer compliments. Then the editing begins.

I imagine that the process went something like this:

“I like it but could we change the words ’If you get a kid to camp’ to ‘if you give a kid a campership’

and where it says, ‘with new friends at his side’ please change it to ‘supportive group of new friends’.

And, I think that the section that says:

‘He might gather up the courage to take a swimming lesson.

When he’s finished, he’ll be swimming like a fish,

Once swimming like a fish, he’ll ask about the boat test”

would be better if it said:

‘He might gather up the courage to take a swimming lesson.

When he’s finished, he’ll be swimming like a fish,

Then he will feel healthier and motivated.

Once he develops self-confidence, makes new friends and feels healthy and motivated’”

I understand that the camp wants to promote its focus on creating healthier, motivated and more self-confident kids – but does it have to be here in the middle of a sweet poem intended to remind us of childhood and all that camp brings?

I would have kept it light and inserted one, maybe two interesting facts below along with the ask.

And keep the tone consistent. The tone of the letter, just as in all writing, offers an impression as much as the content. And if you are editing someone else’s work, feel free to help clarify the message, correct facts but try to avoid making changes because you would prefer a different style. Unless, your signature is on the bottom. Then, feel free to make it whatever tone you like.