April 7, 2021

Professional Writer at Work: Interview with Eva Fearn, Director of Donor Communications for The Nature Conservancy in New York

Eva Fearn is the Director of Donor Communications at The Nature Conservancy in New York. Eva leads a small team to support strategy and materials for engaging donors and trustees. She works with Relationship Managers (direct fundraisers) and conservation professionals to produce documents and materials that highlight interesting work for The Nature Conservancy’s donors. Eva explains, “These materials can range from a detailed 15-page proposal for a foundation, to a 2-page, image-filled summary for an individual. In addition to these tailored pitches, I develop overarching descriptions of our programs for broader audiences—via web, direct mail and virtual events. Much of my professional effort is spent translating the science, climate-change-related, or other details of the work (in New York, the U.S., and globally) so that it is clear and inspiring.”

As an undergraduate student, Eva took an environmental journalism class. “If I’m being honest, I did not do well in it!” The professor had the students read Silent Spring by Rachel Carson and A Civil Action by Jonathan Harr, Eva says, both of which were powerful stories. “We also learned about the integrity of writing that seeks to inform and motivate action by translating scientific information and statistics, and what happens when that is done poorly or (worse) to purposefully misrepresent data. That experience probably keeps me working at science-based organizations.”

Eva believes a useful skill for her job —and helpful in any writing career— is the ability to “sift through the noise” and keep material to the point, active, and direct. She points out, “it is harder than it sounds and often requires multiple drafts, which can be time consuming. However, most people do not have the time to read lengthy passages, even when they care deeply about a topic. If we want our writing to have impact (and we do!), then it has to fit into people’s busy lives. Give them the details they need to understand and the steps they can do to take action.”

Early in her career, Eva took program management, entry level positions that only marginally involved writing. As she wrote on everything from events to internal project proposals, Eva was able to shift to positions with heavier writing responsibility, such as editing scientific papers and books on wildlife. It is important to understand that topical writing involves absorbing and synthesizing knowledge. 

In her current role, Eva collaborates with conservation staff and leaders. She participates in strategy calls to understand why they are pursuing a certain set of actions; articulates the short- and long-term impact of a gift; and she collaborates with conservation staff again to make sure they can deliver on what they are pitching. If Eva has been tasked to write about a program or topic for the first time, she collaborates with other writers in the organization to share materials. “It is always wise to get a second set of eyes editing your work.”

For a career like hers, Eva’s advice is to be flexible and know that good writing takes time. “Try to find a position where you’re writing about something that you care about. Having a genuine interest in the topics you write about means you gravitate towards knowing more about the topic in your personal life and it can give you a sense of purpose and motivation beyond your task at hand. For example, I was on a tight deadline recently for a piece on conservation in Belize, and my colleague cheered me on by saying, ‘It’s for the jaguars.’”

In closing, Eva has shared three samples of work that she has written and produced: 

  1. Our World: a lengthy webpage celebrating and summarizing a 5-year conservation campaign

  2. Annual Report: a photo-fulled document detailing the 2019 impact of The Nature Conservancy, NY

  3. State of Wildlife and Wild Places: a book published by Island Press in 2010-2011

Thank you to Eva Fearn for sharing her professional writing journey with us. 

To learn more about the MS in Professional Writing program at NYU School of Professional Studies, visit sps.nyu.edu/mspw

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