A few simple prompt-crafting tips can make a big difference
ChatGPT only recently celebrated its 6-month birthday, but it has already proven itself as a valuable tool for content creators — including fundraisers.
While chatbots like ChatGPT and its cousins aren’t able to fully replace human writers (yet), they’re working their way into our workplaces and shaking up familiar creative practices. Something of an industry has grown up around ‘best ChatGPT prompts’ to generate outputs for marketing and social media.
Fundraisers who’ve experimented with ChatGPT have found it’s a capable writing assistant for fundraising appeals — once you get up to speed on a few prompt-crafting techniques.
How to write a great ChatGPT prompt for a fundraising appeal
Writing an effective prompt for ChatGPT isn’t rocket science, but it benefits from some preparation.
Ask yourself: “If I was passing this task to a junior fundraising assistant, someone who is a good writer but doesn’t have much fundraising experience, what would I need to tell them?”
- What type of fundraising appeal is it? Describe the overall frame of the appeal. Is it a renewal appeal for annual donors, a conversation campaign for new leads, or a Giving Tuesday special donation appeal to monthly donors?
- What is the main topic or theme for the appeal? You don’t need to be highly detailed here, but this is needed for the narrative of the appeal, and for subject lines, intro paragraphs, and calls-to-action.
- What important background about your organization should be considered? What is the fundraising case that you communicate to potential donors? (either specific to this unique appeal, or more general about your fundraising mission)
- What is the urgency for this fundraising appeal? Why should donors open their wallets at this particular moment?
- What is the writing style that suits this appeal? Many fundraising appeals are written in a friendly and informal style, but other styles may be more appropriate.
- Who are the potential donors you will be reaching with this appeal? What important demographic or psychographic characteristics about them should be considered?
- What is the timing for the campaign? Does it correspond with an important date, or time-limited opportunity? Is this a one-time appeal, or a series with cultivation/warm-up messages leading to an appeal?
- What are the output formats you need for the appeal? Multi-channel fundraising campaigns include social, email, and web components, and marketing needs could include radio/video/telemarketing scripts. Also consider the length of appeal text that would best suit, and individual features such as a donate button in an email, or hashtags/emojis in a Twitter post
With some of these answers prepared you can try building a prompt.
Your prompt should be organized and concise. There’s a limit on the amount of text you can exchange with ChatGPT in one prompt — approximately 800 to 900 words (4,096 tokens). That limit includes both the prompt you submit and the response from ChatGPT, so it’s best practice to keep your prompts as short as possible and allow a bigger window for the response.
Here’s an example of a single combined prompt that covers many of the questions above:
Act as a fundraising copy writer and help to prepare a fundraising appeal for UNHCR. The fundraising mission of UNHCR is: We help to save lives and build better futures for the millions of people forced to flee their homes.
We believe that everybody has the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge, having fled violence.
The message should be earnest and urgent in tone and will be targeted to donor lookalike audiences on facebook. The topic of the message should be World Refugee Day with urgency because of the growing refugee crisis in the Mediterranean.
Donations to this campaign will support our important work to help refugee children rebuild their lives. Also, the consider the following points when writing the message: it is a match appeal that ends at midnight on 20th June.
The message should be in the form of a facebook post to support this fundraising campaign. Use the following guidelines to write the message:
The post text should be approximately 150 words in length.
1) the message should begin with an attention-getting headline
2) do not use ‘Dear’ or any other salutation at the start of the message
3) Include a description of a suitable image for this post
4) have a strong call-to-action
5) include several hashtags related to the message content.
(this prompt is 215 words long which would give ChatGPT space for at least 500 words in response)
Here’s a sample response from this prompt:
🌍🤝 Urgent Appeal: Help Us Save Lives and Rebuild Futures on World Refugee Day!
📢 Time is running out to make a real difference in the lives of millions of people who have been forced to flee their homes. They desperately need your support on this World Refugee Day.
🌟 Imagine the power of your donation as a lifeline for refugee children. Your generosity can provide them with hope, education, and a chance to rebuild their lives.
🤲 Give today, and your donation will be matched dollar for dollar until midnight on 20th June. Every dollar you contribute will have double the impact, allowing us to reach even more children in need.
💙 Join us in making a difference. Click the “Donate Now” button and be a part of our mission to provide safety, shelter, and opportunities for refugees around the world.
🔗 Donate Now: [Insert donation link]
🔖 Hashtags: #WorldRefugeeDay #SavingLives #BuildingFutures #RefugeeCrisis #EveryChildMatters
Together, we can ensure that every child, no matter their circumstances, has the chance to dream, grow, and thrive. Act now and let’s rewrite the future for refugee children! 🌟🚀
📸 Image Description: Show a powerful image of a young refugee child, with a tired but determined expression, holding a school bag. The background can depict a camp, highlighting the urgency of the situation.
The generated text response you get back from ChatGPT might meet all your criteria and is ready to be used as a first draft for further editing and fact-checking. But it’s more likely that it’ll be ‘on the right track’, but still need some work.
You can ask ChatGPT to try again, and suggest some specific improvements:
“ Regenerate the text, and address the donor more directly.”
“Use fewer (or more) emojis”
”Add more emotional impact to the central beneficiary’s story.”
“Make the opening paragraph more urgent”
With a few refinement prompts like this, you can get closer to the draft that meets your need. ChatGPT is generally very responsive and agreeable when receiving critical feedback.
Or try another prompting style: just have a chat
ChatGPT was designed to interact with humans through dialogue, and it can sometimes perform better on complex tasks when they are divided into pieces rather than clumped all together into one instruction prompt. ChatGPT has a memory within each individual conversation, so you can take a different approach and start with a fairly simple opening prompt, then add complexity and further details through the back-and-forth of the conversation.
Here’s how a sample dialogue with ChatGPT about writing a fundraising appeal might go:
“Act as a fundraising writing assistant and help me prepare a fundraising appeal. I will provide details about the appeal and other contextual information in separate pieces and when I have provided all the information I will say ‘Done’ and you can then generate the appeal text.”
“Of course! I’d be happy to assist you in preparing a fundraising appeal. Please provide me with the details and contextual information one piece at a time, and let me know when you’re ready to proceed.”
“The fundraising mission of UNHCR is: We help to save lives and build better futures for the millions of people forced to flee their homes. We believe that everybody has the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge, having fled violence.”
“Thank you for providing the initial details. Please continue to provide specific information and key points.”
“The message should be earnest and urgent in tone and will be targeted to donor lookalike audiences on facebook. The topic of the message should be World Refugee Day with urgency because of the growing refugee crisis in the Mediterranean.”
“Okay, let’s now focus on crafting the UNHCR fundraising appeal specifically for World Refugee Day, highlighting the urgency of the growing refugee crisis in the Mediterranean. Are there any additional details you can provide for creating the appeal?”
Talking through the assignment in this way with ChatGPT can help you to explain different parts of the request in detail, and ChatGPT may even ask clarifying questions, or provide its own summary of the uploaded details — or even begin to process sample outputs using what it has received so far.
Fine-tuning for style by providing writing samples
You can also use this ‘dialogue’ structure to try fine-tuning ChatGPT’s outputs to better match your organisation’s unique style and voice.
ChatGPT has a built-in understanding of many forms of writing, including fundraising appeals, and even without specific guidance it can generate well-structured, impactful copy for a range of appeal types.
But ChatGPT was trained on a generalized data set that included appeals from many different organizations and types of campaigns. So ChatGPT’s outputs are unlikely to match the exact style, tone, and voice of your own organization’s appeals without some additional guidance. You can add some additional fine-tuning by providing samples of your previous appeals.
This is where the dialogue capabilities of ChatGPT come into play. Instead of starting off with a prompt that includes all of your instructions, use your opening prompt to tell ChatGPT that you will provide both the instruction prompt (as above), and also some samples of previous appeals to use as a model for the voice, tone, and structure.
The conversation can go something like this:
“Act as a writing assistant and help me write text for a fundraising appeal. I will provide you with a set of instructions, and then I will upload 3 examples of fundraising appeals to guide the style, tone, voice, and structure you should follow when preparing the new appeal text. When I have finished uploading the examples, I will say ‘Done’ ”
“Okay, start by uploading the instruction set”
<User pastes in detailed insrtuction prompt>
“Okay, I have received the instruction set. Proceed with uploading the first example.”
<User uploads first example and follows with two more>
“I have received the three examples. If you would like me to generate the appeal letter now, respond with ‘Done’”
These dialogue methods can unlocked some of the deeper reasoning capabilities of Generative AI models like ChatGPT. You can experiment with different logic frameworks to guide its creative process toward different fundraising scenarios:
“Imagine that our spring fundraising drive had failed and how that would affect our ability to deliver programming on the ground where it is urgently needed.”
A central caveat still applies to all generated output from ChatGPT — it may not be factually accurate. Be sure to verify any and all references, including links to ‘source documents’.
The November 2021 knowledge cut-off
Another thing to keep in mind is that ChatGPT’s own knowledge of the world still ends in November 2021. That can be a big problem if you need fundraising copy that responds to current events. The ‘dialogue’ technique of attaching additional documents to your prompt can be used to fill that gap and give ChatGPT the press releases and briefing notes that it needs.
“I will provide several press releases with the most recent developments to be used when generating the appeal text.”
Finally, we are still very much in the learning phase of working with ChatGPT.
New prompting techniques are being discovered regularly, and the models themselves are evolving (a recent announcement indicates that ChatGPT’s conversation window may soon be increased from 4,096 tokens to more than 16,000 — which should allow for the creation of much larger, more detailed prompts).
Expect there to be a lot of evolution in prompt-writing for fundraising.