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Jeff Brooks
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What causes most bad fundraising writing? Is it bad writers? No, that's a distant third. (The second most common cause of bad writing is crummy brand guidelines that force abstraction and jargon.) The main source is what author Steven Pinker calls the Curse of Knowledge. He describes the Curse in a recent Wall Street Journal article, The Source of Bad Writing. his definition: "a difficulty in imagining what it is like for someone else not to know something that you know." All writers suffer from the Curse of Knowledge. The better ones know how to counteract it. Here's Pinker's advice:... Continue reading
Posted 14 hours ago at Future Fundraising Now
Register for the Nonprofit Storytelling Conference. November 6-7 in Seattle. Here's what Tom Ahern says about it: This fundraisers' conference is about just one thing: helping you make FAR more money for your charity ... by changing the way you tell stories ... in your appeals, your newsletters, your website, your e-blasts, your annual reports, your social media ... and more. Here are just three handy little things you'll learn. What is a story, really? (The answer may surprise you.) Who's the hero the stories that motivate donors? (Anyone who thinks the purpose of telling stories is to display the... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
Professor Siegfried Vögele: May his memory be everlasting. Who is Professor Siegfried Vögele, you ask? You might call him the Albert Einstein of direct mail. He revolutionized the way we understand how people interact with the stuff we send them by actually watching and recording what they did. Vögele died last March. Word of his passing has only recently been filtering through the Direct Mail Nerd community. Here's one of Vögele's classic discoveries. The way people look at a direct mail letter typically goes like this: Check who was writing to them. Look for their own name as the addressee.... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
Thanking donors is just as important as asking them. We should have just as much knowledge about how we can make donors feel appreciated and connected as we do about motivating them to give. Here's a start, at Clairification: 3 Rules for Thanking Nonprofit Donors that Should Never Be Broken. Send a letter within 48 hours. Personalize your thank you with notes and inserts. Pick up the phone. I have one item to add to the list: Thank donors relevantly and specifically. If you asked them to give to feed hungry people, thank them for feeding hungry people. Not for... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
Your mother told you this. Now science is catching up with her. A recent study, reported at the Neuromarketing blog (Two Words That Change How People Think of You) found the hidden power in saying Thank you. In the study, people who thanked others (by a hand-written note) were perceived as having warmer personalities and being worth forming a relationship with. Those who received these thank-you notes were more willing to cooperate by sharing contact details. But you knew that. If your organization isn't putting serious thought into thanking donors, you aren't really fundraising. Thankful organizations are getting -- and... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
From Brand-as-Business Bites, here's a chilling thought: Unless and until your culture is expressed clearly through your customer experience, you have nothing worth communicating. This is a big problem for many fundraisers. They have nothing distinctive, noticeable, or thrilling to offer donors. Sure, they give donors the opportunity to donate, and that's no small thing. But when it comes to the reason for giving, it's abstract, vague, exactly what almost everyone else says. What can you do to have something worth communicating? Exciting, specific, unique, compelling fundraising offers. If your fundraising consists of the old two-step: We are awesome. Support... Continue reading
Posted Oct 10, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
Are you paying attention to the Boomers? You should be, and here are some reasons why, from Engage:Boomers, at The Numbers That Make Boomers Number One For Many Marketers: Boomers have 70% of all disposable income in the United States. They spend $2.9 trillion a year. There are nearly 80 million of them in the US. Close to 100% of them own computers. Boomers now make up more than half of the donor-age population of the US. They increase both in numbers and proportion, since for every elderly donor who "involuntarily lapses" out of the donor population, more than one... Continue reading
Posted Oct 9, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
Getting people to click your call-to-action buttons is one of the more important tasks in online fundraising. Here's some help from Daniel Melbye's blog on this topic, at Creating Call to Action Buttons That Convert: Use actionable language. Try something like "Give food to starving children" rather than "Donate now." Make it clickable. Make it look like a button -- give it depth with gradients, drop-shadows or both. Make it stand out. A contrasting color will draw more eyes and clicks than a nice congruent color. Position it. Put it in a prominent place on the page. You may need... Continue reading
Posted Oct 8, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
Veritus Group blog is running a great series called Donors Are Your Mission, Too. If your organization is serious about making the world a better place, you will read this series -- and follow its suggestions. Organizations that consider donors part of their mission raise a lot more money. They get more donors, retain more of those they get. Upgrade more of them to higher giving levels. Get more bequests. Get more volunteers. Raise more awareness. Focusing on donors is the El Dorado of nonprofit effectiveness. But this one isn't a myth. I want to show you one list from... Continue reading
Posted Oct 7, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
Retention Fundraising: The New Art and Science of Keeping Your Donors for Life by Roger Craver Read this book. Really, just read it. There are a lot of books about fundraising out there. A lot of very good books. You should read all of them. But Roger Craver's new book is different. Rather than a general how-to-do-fundraising book, it zeroes in on donor retention -- the part of your fundraising that's most likely broken. (And even if it's not broken, it's the part with the most impact on your bottom-line revenue.) It's more "mathy" than most fundraising books. Not over-your-head... Continue reading
Posted Oct 6, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
How often do you see a message from a nonprofit -- often a billboard, transit ad, or print ad -- that consists of the following: The organization's logo and tagline. A stock photo of happy people. They look like random happy people, but I think they're usually meant to stand for the people the organization helps. Happy because whatever problem they had has been solved, thanks to the organization. Contact information: URL, phone, address. And that's it. It's surprisingly frequent. And almost completely ineffective. Proclaiming your existence is not fundraising. It's also not marketing, advertising, or branding. It accomplishes almost... Continue reading
Posted Oct 3, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
Sean Triner, writing at 101fundraising, asks an important question: Brand awareness is King! Or is it?. Sean lays out several reasons you should think twice before spending money on awareness campaigns. The most important point is that it's almost impossible to make the return on investment work for you with awareness campaigns: Effective fundraising ... actually raises awareness anyway. Because of the income associated with it, this usually makes it more effective than any non-fundraising awareness activity. Let's play this out with numbers: Suppose you have an effective donor acquisition channel that brings in new donors at a break-even rate.... Continue reading
Posted Oct 2, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
It's direct mail. Direct mail is one of the most effective ways of driving online giving. In most cases, it's better at getting people to give online than email, better than social media, better than search engine marketing. If you want to succeed online, don't ignore direct mail. Continue reading
Posted Oct 1, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
Do your donors love you? Are you lovable? Here are 5 Tips for Making Your Donors Love You from Fired-Up Fundraising: Ask donors to do something besides give money. Use a clear call to action. Don't bore them! Send them snail mail in addition to emails. Find the stories. I'd sum it up this way: Be relevant -- talk to them about the things they care about, and in the way that reaches them. And respect donors. Don't try to fix them. Appreciate the great things they do. Then they'll love you and your cause. Continue reading
Posted Sep 30, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
A lot of fundraisers put amazing energy into making sure they don't offend or annoy anyone. That's like taking all the flavor out of your stew so nobody will dislike it. As says, if you're doing it right, Someone has to hate your brand: Your brand loyalists will love you. But, there's no yin without the yang. In other words, if some love you, others will hate you. You can't be everything to everyone and be a strong brand. Aim your messaging at those who get it. Who understand your cause. Who belong to your tribe. Forget everyone else.... Continue reading
Posted Sep 29, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
In direct mail (and sometimes email), the PS is the most important thing you write. It's one of the most-read parts of your message. It's worth spending some time on to make it really sing. Here's the P.S. from a fundraising letter I got the other day: P.S. None of our acheivements could have been attained without the sustained and dedicated support of contributors like you. The sentiment is good: "We can't do it without you." Everything else about this P.S. is broken: It's abstract -- not specifically about anything, just the idea. The writing is stilted and awkward. Read... Continue reading
Posted Sep 26, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
by guest blogger George Crankovic of TrueSense Marketing Most of us think of pronouns like "I" and "we" as mere function words in copy. We use them to start a sentence or move it along to get to the good, meaty words that are marbled with meaning. But there's research (PDF) shows that simple pronouns say a lot more than we think. For example, in both speaking and writing, higher-status people don't use the personal pronoun "I" very much. This contradicts the stereotype of the captain of the boardroom constantly exclaiming "I, I, I." In fact, higher-status people use "I"... Continue reading
Posted Sep 25, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
Don't worry too much about typos. I know clean, error-free copy is nicer than messy copy, but the odd typo here or there just doesn't matter. There's even some evidence that in fundraising, typos improve response. Maybe some people become more attentive when they find a typo, with enough additional attention to push a few more of them over the line to action. But here's where you should sweat bullets over typos: phone numbers, URLs, zip codes -- get one of those wrong, and you can sink a fundraising campaign faster than you can say "backslash." So proof everything like... Continue reading
Posted Sep 24, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
While working on the title of my first book (the one that ended up The Fundraiser's Guide to Irresistible Communications, one of the ideas that came up in brainstorming was this: Catnip for Donors. It was almost good. But I hated that sense that we can do things that will force donors to behave in not-quite-normal ways -- the way cats act with catnip. Fundraising doesn't work like that. That would be unethical. Anyway, it doesn't work. There are no sleezy techniques that cause donors to act against their better judgment. The Neuromarketing blog backs me up on that, at... Continue reading
Posted Sep 23, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
Are you fundraising on your what, your how, or your why? It matters a lot. Here's what Roy Williams says in a recent Monday Morning Memo, at The Power of Why: Most ads underperform because they say, "Here's what we do and here's how we do it. You should buy it." Tedious and predictable ads always talk about what and how. But if you want to engage the imagination, you've got to start talking about why. Think about that. If this matters in commercial advertising, it matter far, far more in fundraising. Because why is all we have to offer.... Continue reading
Posted Sep 22, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
I hate to complain about the success of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, but it has one huge downside: All the energy and time that's going to be spent pointlessly trying to recreate it. (See When you KNOW they're going to ask, "Why can't we do something like the Ice Bucket Challenge?" Also see What a weasel is going to tell you about the Ice Bucket Challenge.) I think everyone who works in fundraising is going to be tasked with creating the next ice bucket challenge. That's like being asked to create the next big lottery win, but that won't... Continue reading
Posted Sep 18, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
Every time I look at an online fundraising program that's not gaining traction, the most damaging part of the program, the single thing that's turning away donors before they can give is poorly built giving pages. Here's a quick list of giving page improvements from npEngage, at The Top 10 Most Effective Donation Form Optimizations You Can Make: Make it simple for people to find and get to your donation form. Brand your donation form so that it looks like your website. Make sure potential donors stay on YOUR website -- don't make them click away. Keep it to one... Continue reading
Posted Sep 17, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
"Raising awareness" is an almost complete waste of money for fundraising organizations. Even if doing so is "free." (Because nothing is truly free. But that's another conversation.) The OrangeGerbera blog has a great take on this: Why You Don't Really Want Increased Awareness. That's right: you don't really want increased awareness. That could land you in a heresy trial in some quarters. But it's true: ... it should come as no surprise that not every single person in your community is interested in your cause. For those who are not inclined to have an interest, no amount of asking will... Continue reading
Posted Sep 16, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
One of my favorite people is Tom Ahern. He's probably one of your favorites too. Tom is the author of some really excellent books about fundraising, and a top fundraising copywriter on this planet (the other ones too, I bet). For about the last 10 years, Tom and I have become good friends, frequent correspondents, and traders of advice. But here's the weird thing: We have never met face to face. We've tried and failed. Here's where you come in: You can be there when Tom Ahern and Jeff Brooks meet for the first time. Here's how: Register for the... Continue reading
Posted Sep 15, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
Do you use the services of professional writers? If you don't, it's probably costing you a lot of lost fundraising revenue. I realize that may be self-serving for me to say, but it's true. Professional writers do something that regular people -- even very smart regular people -- can't do. Here's how the Bad Language Blog puts it, at Why marketing professionals need professional writers: Effective copywriting is more than just stringing syntactically correct sentences together. It's about distilling the features of your product or service into benefits that your customers care about and finding the right style and tone... Continue reading
Posted Sep 12, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now