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Jeff Brooks
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How many fundraisers are looking for a way to escape the pain and hard work of raising funds, dreaming that some new social media site or ice bucket or other flim-flam will cause funds to pour in? Too many. And that's too bad, because there's no such thing as a no-work, no-pain path to fundraising success. As long as your organization keeps looking for a magic way out, you won't be doing the real job of fundraising, which is paying close attention to donors and seeking ways to reach them. The 101fundraising blog calls the search for an easy way... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
I'm about to save you a lot of guesswork and time by sharing Brooks' First Law of Fundraising Effectiveness: If it doesn't scare you, at least a little bit, the fundraising probably doesn't have the power it needs to succeed. And the Boss Corollary to Brooks' First Law: The more your boss hates the fundraising, the better it will do. Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
Afraid the US presidential election is going to crush your fundraising? Don't be. At least, don't blame all your woes on the election. A recent Blackbaud study, reported at npEngage (Giving in an Election Year) looked at giving in the last presidential election year, 2012, and compared it to giving in 2011. It showed small impact on charitable giving. The study found that donors who gave to national political campaigns in 2012 also gave more to the charitable organizations in 2012 than they did in 2011. The Blackbaud Index of Charitable Giving showed a 1.7% increase in giving in 2012... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
There are a lot of reasons to distrust any given website. Do people who should be your donors distrust your website -- and those don't donate? This post from Duct Tape Marketing, 10 reasons why people don't trust your website looks at some of the reasons people don't trust commercial websites. I think you'll agree that these also apply to nonprofit websites: You don't have a detailed About Us page. You don't have a head shot or team photos. You don't have a telephone number listed. You don't have a physical contact address listed. You don't have any certifications, association... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
When I was a young fundraiser, I was an extremist. I zoomed back and forth between two kinds of fundraising extremism. It was kind of fun, and it gave me a continuing sense of self-righteous fervor. But I was missing the boat, over and over again. I went back and forth between what I'll call right-wing fundraising and left-wing fundraising. These are not political terms in any way, but describe approaches to fundraising itself. Let me describe them: Right-wing fundraising This is fundraising that stays with best practices. It's cynical of new approaches. It has advantages and disadvantages... Advantage: Fundraising... Continue reading
Posted Apr 22, 2016 at Future Fundraising Now
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For most fundraisers, your donors are a lot older than you think. We'll look at why this is so and what it means for you: How do you communicate with these people? About what? And in which channels? Knowing hold old your donors are -- and responding appropriately -- is the key to success in fundraising. Knowledge is power! 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. Continue reading
Posted Apr 21, 2016 at Future Fundraising Now
by guest blogger George Crankovic, Senior Writer at TrueSense Marketing. With the political season in full swing, there's something politicians pursue with almost as much zeal as the election victory itself. It's the applause line. Politicians love it when a line in one of their speeches sets off thunderous applause. But they don't leave this to chance. They use specific techniques -- generally, according to one study, Generating Applause: A Study of Rhetoric and Response at Party Political Conferences (PDF), relying on seven rhetorical devices -- to get people to react. Our goal as fundraisers isn't exactly to get applause,... Continue reading
Posted Apr 20, 2016 at Future Fundraising Now
As this post at My Emma blog points out, The secret to email success isn't luck. It's knowledge. And knowledge comes from testing. Here are five very smart tests for your email program: Test your subject lines. Test your from name. (There's no one right approach, so test various things.) Test your send times. Test your CTA buttons. (DONATE may be your best bet. Or may not.) Test different types of content. (Short messages, long message, ask, no-ask, other kinds of engagement.) Caveat: If your email list is smaller than 100,000, most tests you run will give you statistically insignificant... Continue reading
Posted Apr 19, 2016 at Future Fundraising Now
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Nearly 60 years ago, American linguist Noam Chomsky wrote one of the most famous sentences in the English language: Colorless green ideas sleep furiously. It's a real, grammatically correct sentence. But it has no obvious understandable meaning. The point is that syntax (grammar and usage rules) and semantics (meaning) are completely different things. You can be flawless in the first area but complete mush in the second. A lot of fundraising writing suffers from this problem. It's grammatically flawless. Carefully created, edited, and proofed. Completely clean. But utter nonsense to the donors it's aimed at. Because its creators are talking... Continue reading
Posted Apr 18, 2016 at Future Fundraising Now
How many times have you heard comments like: That fundraising letter is too long -- I never read anything over one page. I hate the color red. Get rid of it. Those short paragraphs make it look like you aren't serious. I'd throw this message out without reading it. That's the fast track to fundraising failure. The proper response to those statements of taste and preference is to ignore them -- they don't mean anything. That's the point over at Through Non-Profit Eyes on why you can't base your fundraising decisions on your own likes and dislikes: Random Donor &... Continue reading
Posted Apr 14, 2016 at Future Fundraising Now
by guest blogger George Crankovic, Senior Writer at TrueSense Marketing. When it comes to writing -- and especially copywriting for fundraising -- vague and abstract are bad, while concrete and specific are good. We know this. Now science explains why. In one study called Reading cinnamon activates olfactory brain regions, researchers had their subjects rate words according to the association with smell, ranging on a scale from no association to a strong association. Words like "turpentine" and "cinnamon" with strong associations to smell were tested against words with no association. The upshot is that, amazingly, when you read a word... Continue reading
Posted Apr 13, 2016 at Future Fundraising Now
Everyone tells you things you can do to improve your fundraising copy. Here are some things to get rid of that can make an even bigger difference for you: Get rid of the teaser. More often than not, an envelope with no teaser out-performs one with a teaser. Get rid of the brochure. Removing a brochure from a direct mail package almost always improves results. Get rid of your first paragraph. You'd be amazed how often your first paragraph is a weak warm-up and your real lead is your second or third paragraph. Give it a try. Get rid of... Continue reading
Posted Apr 12, 2016 at Future Fundraising Now
by guest blogger Andrew Rogers, Senior Writer at TrueSense Marketing. Now in its fourth season, Sherlock, the modern-day retelling of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, is one of the world's most popular TV shows. There's a great article over at Script magazine titled 7 Things You Can Learn from "Sherlock". Let's get out our magnifying glass and see what fundraisers can take from a few of these lessons. Be Visual. When Sherlock thinks, we soar through his "mind palace" with him. When he reads the details of someone's life by the clues on their bodies and clothes, we see... Continue reading
Posted Apr 11, 2016 at Future Fundraising Now
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Most fundraisers experience a drop in giving during the summer months. Here are some tips for minimizing the pain by maximizing summertime revenue ... and other ways you can profitably use the summer months to improve your fundraising all year 'round. 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. Continue reading
Posted Apr 7, 2016 at Future Fundraising Now
Here are some good was to start your fundraising letters. Tell a story. If you've got a dynamite story that really makes the case for your offer, just start right in with the story, using a killer opening like you'd see in a mystery story: Lolita knew something was terribly wrong the minute she saw Mr. Humbert. Trumpet the offer. If your fundraising offer is something irresistible -- a great deal, or something that gives the donor a lot of impact -- that's a great way to start: Every dollar you give today will be tripled to help hungry children.... Continue reading
Posted Apr 6, 2016 at Future Fundraising Now
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Other than Zimbabwe, where can you get your hands on the big bucks? Here are three easy ways: Talk to your best donors. No really -- talk to them. Engage them in actual conversation. If they knew you cared about their opinions, many of them would be thrilled. And give more. Don't go silent on your best donors. Far too many nonprofits have a plan for their best donors that goes like this: If your giving rises to a certain level, you get "special treatment." So far, so good. But what that means is they get dramatically less contact than... Continue reading
Posted Apr 5, 2016 at Future Fundraising Now
About 90% of everything that's said about grammar is bogus -- useless, obtuse, or flat-out inaccurate. And most of it will make your writing (and your life) worse if you follow it. That's why I like this post from Arrant Pedantry, an excellent grammar-focused blog: 12 Mistakes Nearly Everyone Who Writes About Grammar Mistakes Makes. Liberate yourself from useless grammar pedantry we see so often: Confusing grammar with spelling, punctuation, and usage. Treating style choices as rules. Ignoring register. Saying that a disliked word isn't a word. Turning proposals into ironclad laws. Failing to discuss exceptions to rules. Overestimating the... Continue reading
Posted Apr 4, 2016 at Future Fundraising Now
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Well, after nearly seven years, this blog is bowing to the inevitable. It's time for a thorough corporate-style rebranding. So, with the very expensive help of a fancy branding agency called Saul's Saw Sharpening Shop (you know they're good because they don't sound at all like they have anything to do with brand), we've changed everything about the brand of this blog. And you know a new brand is good when it requires an explanation! So here it is: From this day forward this blog is called Unicorn Towne. The symbolism is pretty clear, is it not? The unicorn represents... Continue reading
Posted Apr 1, 2016 at Future Fundraising Now
Like checklists? Here's one from Fired Up Fundraising that will help you write better fundraising messages: Your Donor-Centered Appeal Letter Checklist. Check it out: Use a warm tone toward your donor. (Write the way you write to a beloved aunt -- not a business message.) Use the word "you" more than the word "we." (The letter is about the donor, not your organization!) Talk about the passion for the cause that you and your both donor share. Tell your donor exactly the impact she will make with her gift. (Show how her dollars connect with action.) Remove your organization as... Continue reading
Posted Mar 31, 2016 at Future Fundraising Now
How many nonprofit leaders have said, If only we could get Bill Gates to become a donor. All our problems would be solved! Does anyone here know Bill? It's tempting to think there's a super-donor who's willing to swoop in and support you on a massive level. It's not going to happen. Your angels aren't sitting outside your file, just waiting to be contacted. Your angels are already donors. They're just waiting for the opportunity to become angels. It's up to you to find them and cultivate them. That's what the Veritus Group blog advises at Stop Prospecting! ... sitting... Continue reading
Posted Mar 30, 2016 at Future Fundraising Now
It looks as if The Agitators go to pretty much the same set of meeting that I go to. They see similar successes and failures. Their recent list of 10 Bad Fundraising Decisions is almost exactly the list I would have written: Botching the 'thank you.' Appealing to reason over emotion. Not driving your program, including acquisition, toward maximizing lifetime value. Not systematically seeking, listening to or addressing donor feedback/preferences. Thinking your donor thinks like you. Not committing to continual fundraising training/education/up-skilling. Investing in your fundraising program to 'meet budget' instead of to 'seize opportunity.' Tolerating 'silo' or 'go-fer' or... Continue reading
Posted Mar 29, 2016 at Future Fundraising Now
Newsletters aren't magic for every organization. But they can raise good money for most. From Hands On Fundraising, here are some things that may be dampening the potential of your newsletter, at 10 reasons your newsletter could raise more money: Is your newsletter a self-mailer? (Put it in an envelope. They work much better that way.) Is there a letter from your CEO or board chair? (Reconsider. Or get a professional to write it for them.) Are your headlines really headlines? (Two words: supermarket tabloids. Imitate their headlines. Is the newsletter all about your organization? (Make it instead about what... Continue reading
Posted Mar 28, 2016 at Future Fundraising Now
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It's one of the most common experiences in fundraising. You've created a powerful fundraising message. Then you show it to your boss -- and she hates it. We can't ignore bosses (and board members and other authorities) -- and they often dislike our best work. Because it's not aimed at them! Here's how to gently make your case with your boss that whether she likes it or not isn't relevant -- and in fact, her dislike is a pretty good indicator that you've done it right! Practical steps that will help you put the good stuff out their and raise... Continue reading
Posted Mar 24, 2016 at Future Fundraising Now
Good article in Nonprofit Pro: The Death of 'X': Why 'Boring' Might Be Best for Nonprofits. In this equation, X = anything you're doing now to raise funds. You'll hear it from one-track consultants: Direct mail is dead, so you need to reinvest in millennial hoverboard/bitcoin fundraising, which I just happen to be an expert in. While it's true that our donors' use of media is shifting, which tells us that we should be doing that too -- the old media aren't dying. They're changing. Some money is moving from direct mail to email and other digital channels. So keep... Continue reading
Posted Mar 23, 2016 at Future Fundraising Now
Good post over at re: charity that riffs on an insightful quotes by Jeff Bezos: I very frequently get the question: 'What's going to change in the next 10 years?' I almost never get the question: 'What's not going to change in the next 10 years?' And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two -- because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time. Change is a given. But so is stasis. The big successes in fundraising won't be those who chased shiny objects and... Continue reading
Posted Mar 22, 2016 at Future Fundraising Now