“You” might be the most fascinating word in the English language. And it is the single most important word when crafting your marketing message. Yet too many nonprofits organizations are writing “we-oriented” copy. It’s an easy trap to fall into, especially for mission-based organizations.

Your goal for the New Year is to focus on the reader in every letter, every social media post, and every email communication.

Get the word “you” into the first sentence of your message, and use it throughout your copy.

“We’ll sing songs of hope and inspiration,” is nowhere near as strong as “You’ll be inspired and uplifted through the power of music.”

“We’ve made a difference in the lives of thousands of Kansas City women,” isn’t as effective as “You changed a life through your support.”

Even better, tell the reader you know something about him or her. Explain why the recipient is getting this piece of mail (“You loved our production of “Cinderella,” so you are sure to enjoy…”). If you’re writing to donors, let them know that you realize they are donors. If you are targeting people who attended your community event, tell them you know who they are. Nothing kills response faster than a recipient asking “Why did I get this in the mail?”

Well, almost nothing.

When using the word “you,” be careful to limit yourself to things you actually know about your audience. If you mistakenly attribute qualities or behaviors to your reader that don’t ring true, you’ve undermined your credibility for this and any future mailing.

I’ve kept a direct mail piece tacked to my bulletin board for years. The first sentence reads, “You appreciate fine wines and fast cars.” No, I don’t. I buy the cheapest wine I can find, and I drive a Kia Spectra. The sender has lost me with the first sentence.

New Year’s Copywriting Resolution: Use the word “you” and use it meaningfully.