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Jeff Brooks
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Sometimes, writing is hard. Painful. Fruitlessly time-consuming. Here's one way to make it less hard. (I'll never claim there's anything that makes it easy.) It's freewriting. Freewriting is to writing what exercise is to physical health. It's a way to condition and strengthen your writing "muscle." Freewriting was developed and popularized on college campuses by Peter Elbow. You can read about freewriting and some other good writing techniques in his book Writing Without Teachers. Here's how you do it: Set a timer for 10 minutes. Start writing. Don't stop until time is up. Don't pause to think. Don't read what... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
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A donor writes a letter to the president of the organization. It's an articulate critique of what the donor dislikes about their fundraising: It's simplistic, repetitious, and emotional. What do you do? What do you say? We read an actual letter from a real donor and talk through the right -- and wrong -- response. There's a disastrously bad response that many organizations make to letters like this. There's also an affirming, correct, and revenue-enhancing response. To listen, click here to download the audio file or visit the Fundraising Is Beautiful page here, where you'll find several listening and subscription... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
It seems the charity watchdogs have some new bad advice for fundraisers. GuideStar, the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, and Charity Navigator are telling us what we shouldn't say in fundraising: Nonprofits: Ban These Phrases from Your Vocabulary. The phrases they'd like us to ban: "Only X% of your gift goes to overhead." "Only X cents on the dollar go to overhead costs." It's almost refreshing, really. After years of beating the overhead drum and successfully training donors to look at overhead percentage as a measure of charity deservingness -- they've finally seen the light and changed their minds. Which is... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
If there's a "charitable giving chemical," it's oxytocin. When produced in the brain, it enhances empathy. One of the most important drivers of giving. A recent post at the HBR Blog reports some recent research on the type of storytelling that's best at producing oxytocin in the audience: Why Your Brain Loves Good Storytelling. The "trick" is tension: ... in order to motivate a desire to help others, a story must first sustain attention -- a scarce resource in the brain -- by developing tension during the narrative. If the story is able to create that tension then it is... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
Is online writing the revenge of the students? It might be, according to the M+R blog post Your Middle School Teacher May or May Not Be Horrified: 6 Rules for Online Writing. Here are some characteristics of online writing: And yes, if you want to, you can start a sentence with a conjunction. Sentence fragments? The best! A voice that is passive is the worst! (I disagree with this one. Passive voice is a perfectly good tool, and skillful writers use it all the time. Good writing is made up of 10% to 20% passive sentences. The colloquial tone we... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
by guest blogger Brian Tucker, Director of Digital Strategy at TrueSense Marketing When I was young, my grandmother gave me an orange tree. At first, I was excited to have my own oranges straight from the backyard. The tree was planted in the perfect spot, and I watered it every day. The tree began to grow. But then I lost interest, and watered it less frequently. The tree produced one sad little orange. Without proper care, it didn't stand a chance. Sadly, many nonprofit organizations treat their email files the same way. Initially, the plan is executed with excitement. But... Continue reading
Posted Nov 14, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
Ego is one of the top killers of effective fundraising and marketing. The blog Marketing the Arts to Death takes a look at this very serious problem at Arts Leaders' Egos and Bad Arts Marketing. It's not just arts organizations that suffer from this. Any nonprofit that has executives who think if their material makes them feel good then it's good is probably churning out bad, ego-driven materials that don't work. Here's what happens when the ego-driven executive gets involved: They don't really know what professional, customer-centered marketing should look like, and since there's no one to stop them, they'll... Continue reading
Posted Nov 13, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
The advice goes something like this: If the salutation on your direct mail letter is Dear Friend -- rather than the donor's actual name -- fire and brimstone will fall on your head, your donors will utterly reject your message and everything else you do, and you'll wake up one day in a frozen ditch in Manitoba and ask yourself why you did such a foolish thing. You'd have to be a complete idiot to use non-personalized salutations, eh? Not really. I've tested it many times, and I can tell you: The choice of a personalized message or a non-personalized... Continue reading
Posted Nov 12, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
It's pretty straightforward. Copy that moves people to action has a few key attributes. Here's what they are according to the KISSmetrics blog at Four Absolute Essentials of High-Converting Copy: Clear. Casual. Killer headlines. Scannable. That's true online or off. If you want your writing to have impact on people's behavior, that's how to write it. Continue reading
Posted Nov 11, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
Here's my presentation from last week's Nonprofit Storytelling Conference, including some material not seen at the conference! Or see it here If you missed the Nonprofit Storytelling Conference, your loss. It was superb. But it's likely to happen again. Don't miss it next time! Or, you can get at least some of the magic by registering for the video option, which will be available for a limited time. Continue reading
Posted Nov 10, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
Must-listen piece from NPR: Why Your Brain Wants To Help One Child In Need -- But Not Millions. It reminds us why we should regard facts, statistics, and large numbers as fundraising poison: People give when you tell stories about individuals. They don't give when you pepper them with facts about the size of the problem. If you tell a story of an individual, and then throw in some stats to back up your case, you kill response. As the reporter says: Here's the main point: ... people decline to do what they can do because they feel bad about... Continue reading
Posted Nov 7, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
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Discover fundcrushing, the common practice that persuades so many donor not to give. Find out why it doesn't raise funds -- and how you can avoid being a fundcrusher. To listen, click here to download the audio file or visit the Fundraising Is Beautiful page here, where you'll find several listening and subscription options. Or subscribe with iTunes: Continue reading
Posted Nov 6, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
Does your landing page do its job, or is it where donors go to get confused and give up? Here are 5 Landing Page Mistakes that Are Drowning Your Conversions from the Daily Egg that just might be what keeps your landing pages from working: Disconnect between the ad and the landing page copy Not using a dedicated landing page (trying to use the same page for different goals) Weak copy (Copy is not specific and active) Lackluster or generic CTA (impact of verbs, action words) Too many goals confuse readers Continue reading
Posted Nov 5, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
I love this video from Save the Children UK. It's all about the heroism of the donor. (Or watch it here on YouTube.) This is the kind of thing we should all be doing: Telling the donor she's a hero. And finding cool ways of doing so. I hate to say it, but there's a fly in this otherwise excellent ointment: The producers of the video fell to the temptation of abstraction. And that almost (but not quite) renders it pointless. Here's how it veers off course: In the interviews, kids say the "hero" did things like "bring water," make... Continue reading
Posted Nov 4, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
Why do donors give? One reason is they have specific interests, and they want to connect with those interests through their giving. That's why support our cause fundraising doesn't work very well. It fails to connect with real life for donors. The Veritus Group blog, talking about this in the context of major donor fundraising points at that Donors Care About Specific Things. They make the claim (and I can vouch for it) that when you go to donors with specific needs they can fund, you'll raise a lot more money. Donors have specific interests. And if you create and... Continue reading
Posted Nov 3, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
Watch this video. It's only a bit over 10 minutes long. And it's John Cleese. You won't regret the time you spend on it. It's about creativity, something we all need to pay close attention to. Or watch it here on YouTube. Cleese has two powerful pieces of advice for boosting your creativity: Recognize the power of working on your project while not working on it. Give yourself time and space away from the work, because your mind will keep working while do something else (even sleep). That subconscious work is often your best. Create boundaries that allow you to... Continue reading
Posted Oct 30, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
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In a park near my office, there's a "sculpture" hanging from the trees. Here it is: I don't know the artist's intention, but every time I see just be your selfie, I like to think it means something like this: Just live your life. See what you see. Remember what you remember. Stop making goofy faces and posing yourself for egocentric portraits. Just hang out with your friends. Live life in primary experience mode. Don't take selfies. Be your selfie. In case you can't tell, I find selfies a little annoying. So when I saw this headline at Forbes.com --... Continue reading
Posted Oct 29, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
How many would-be donors arrive at your landing page, but leave without making a donation? Too many? I thought so. Here's some help from the Daily Egg, at How to Build a Landing Page that Converts: 12 Must-Have Features: Killer Headline Persuasive Subheadline Pictures An Explanation Value Proposition or Benefits Logical Flow Something about Pain Something about Pleasure Trustworthy Testimonials Methods of Contact A Guarantee Powerful Call to Action (Read the Daily Egg post: There are tons of examples.) These are aimed at a commercial sales landing page -- but every one of these elements could be on a fundraising... Continue reading
Posted Oct 28, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
If nobody can find their way to your donation page, it's not worth much. Your donation page should be like Rome: All roads go there. Here are some great pointers from 4aGoodCause blog, at 10 places to put a link to your online donation page: From a spotlight on your home page Your website navigation A "ways to give" page on your website Your Facebook page From Status Updates and Tweets Your email newsletter The email signature of every email your staff sends Confirmation pages and thank you emails From your direct mail letters On the signage at your events... Continue reading
Posted Oct 27, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
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Storytelling that persuades donors to action isn't magic. You just have to make sure your has these elements: It's about the donor (not about your awesome organization) It leads to the donor taking action -- entering the story It's unfinished -- you want to donor to create the satisfying end to the story. To listen, click here to download the audio file or visit the Fundraising Is Beautiful page here, where you'll find several listening and subscription options. Or subscribe with iTunes: Interested in mastering the art of storytelling? You should attend the Nonprofit Storytelling Conference, November 6-7 in Seattle. Continue reading
Posted Oct 24, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
Fundraising is not arguing or persuading people into giving. It's selling them the joy of giving. Arguing doesn't work because it misses the point -- the donors' point. Selling joy works because it speaks to donors where they are. Continue reading
Posted Oct 23, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
Why aren't very many people giving to your fundraising efforts? Maybe, as Hands-On Fundraising, put is, You just haven't earned it yet, baby. How do you earn it? For a start, do these things? Put your donor in the spotlight (stop talking about yourself!) Focus on what's in it for your donor ("we need money" is not a reason for the donor to give) Mind your manners and show some love (say "thank you" -- often, and with feeling) Don't ignore her (find ways to get her opinion -- and listen to it) Fundraising is relationship-building. It really works better... Continue reading
Posted Oct 22, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
Here's a handy list from the Constant Contact blog of Improve Your Open Rates with These 12 Subject Line Tweaks: Cut it down. Shorter subject lines tend to get better open rates. (Test this, because there are many variable factor!) Take out anything spammy (exclamation points, overtly promotional language like "Buy now" or "Free") Ask a question Include a deadline Try a teaser Give a command Add a list ("X great ways to Y") Make an announcement Be unique Tell a joke Say something unexpected Use multimedia Test these things! What works in email can be very specific to your... Continue reading
Posted Oct 21, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
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 Oct 20, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
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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 Oct 17, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now