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Jeff Brooks
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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 WordofMouth.org 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 yesterday 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 4 days ago 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 5 days ago 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 6 days ago 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 7 days ago 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
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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
If your e-newsletter seems to be declining in effectiveness, you aren't alone. Many (but not all) nonprofit email newsletters are driving less engagement and enticing fewer people to hand over their email for a newsletter subscription. The Emma Email blog has some hints that can help maximize your e-newsletter, rather than give up entirely, at The email newsletter isn't dead, but it is our T-Rex: Keep it simple Design for mobile Have one goal Automate for all occasions Or consider this: Rather than send out one newsletter a month that contains five pieces of content, send five, each with one... Continue reading
Posted Sep 11, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
Not everyone involved in your fundraising is making it better. In fact, the typical routing process makes your work far less effective. It's not that they're trying to sabotage your fundraising. It's that they don't understand what they should be doing to make it better. So they guess. With predictably bad outcomes. Willis Turner, writing in FundRaising Success, has a great checklist for fundraising evaluators, at Are the People Reading Your Mail Ruining It? Give this checklist to everyone who reviews your fundraising. The answer to each question should be NO: Are you evaluating the package based on what seems... Continue reading
Posted Sep 10, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
I think every fundraiser is constantly tempted to be boring -- mind-numbingly dull and irrelevant for your donors. Not that they're trying to be boring. They get all boring when they communicate about what they think important -- and miss what donors know, understand, and care about. 101fundraising Blog has a helpful series of questions that can help you avoid being boring: Are you answering the right questions if you don't want to bore people? ... people generally aren't interested in you. They are interested in the cause or issue they are passionate about. They are interested in the difference... Continue reading
Posted Sep 9, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
I believe some day we'll pay as much attention to how we thank donors as we do now to how we ask. Thanking donors is just as important as asking. Because thanking is part of what prompts repeat giving -- without which, your fundraising program is a huge waste of time and money. Poor thanking practices are one of the top causes of poor retention. Here's some help from Get Fully Funded, at 9 Steps to a Powerful Thank You Letter: Send it QUICK. Make it match. (Thank them for the same thing you asked them to support.) Share your... Continue reading
Posted Sep 8, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
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FundRaising Success magazine has an excerpt from my book, The Money-Raising Nonprofit Brand: Motivating Donors to Give, Give Happily, and Keep on Giving. Read it at: Motivating Donors to Give -- and Give Happily. Teaser: Stating abstract ideals is not fundraising.... Donors give to make specific things happen, not to identify with ideals. Our job is to connect a donor's ideals with a gritty and specific reality, so she can change the world. Continue reading
Posted Sep 5, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
Here's another interesting writing tool: the Latinometer. Most English words have either Germanic or Latin roots. Germanic-root words tend to be shorter, simpler, and pack more emotional punch. Latin-root words are longer and more intellectual. Think about the difference between the Germanic guts and the Latinate intestines. The Latinometer looks at the origins of the words you use and reveals the percentage of Latinate words you use. It diagnoses your writing according to these levels: 20% Latinate and below: You see the world in concrete terms 20% to 35%: You sound educated 35% to 60%: You sound pretentious 60% and... Continue reading
Posted Sep 4, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
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News flash: The way people decide to give to charitable causes is not rational. One of the common critiques of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has gone something like this: We shouldn't be paying so much attention (and money) to ALS, because it's a relatively rare disease. So many more people die from [name a more common disease that you think matters more than ALS], that's where the money should be going. Then there's this strange infographic, that first appeared in a Vox article, The truth about the Ice Bucket Challenge: Viral memes shouldn't dictate our charitable giving. Ignore the... Continue reading
Posted Sep 3, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
Here's a checklist that will help you craft a strong appeal for funds, from Clairification: Check Your Next Appeal Letter Against This 16-Point List Before Sending. This could make a real difference for you: Have you outlined a compelling problem that connects with what your donor cares about? Have you offered a simple, results-oriented solution? Have you described an attainable goal, including what it will cost? Have you packed in emotional triggers? Do you have an urgent deadline? Are you speaking to the donor and using the magic word 'you'? Are you reminding donors of the rewards that come from... Continue reading
Posted Sep 2, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
by guest blogger George Crankovic You're creating an e-appeal, and you reach the north face of the 30,000-foot mountain you must climb. You have to write the subject line. It has to stand out in the inbox, intrigue your donors, motivate them to act, and move them to click. Despite all this, many self-appointed experts add another requirement: it has to be short, short, short. "Keep it under three words," they say. "Under two? Even better!" But according to a recent study (This Just In: Subject Line Length Means Absolutely Nothing) in which 12 billion -- yes, billion -- subject... Continue reading
Posted Aug 28, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
Here's a short, encouraging list from the Bloomerang blog: 4 Signs Your Nonprofit Is On The Right Track: Focusing on donor retention Making the second gift a priority Having a top-notch communication strategy Harnessing technology in their fundraising efforts I can vouch for this list. Organizations that do these things have strong fundraising programs. They buck the trends when the economy is bad. When things are good, they see rapid growth. These four things aren't everything you need to do, but they're a good part of it. Continue reading
Posted Aug 27, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
It's good to think things through carefully. It can prevent errors. It's bad to think things through too much. That can make you heedlessly do unbelievably stupid things. Here's a recent example: the Canadian Revenue Agency ruled that Oxfam Canada cannot include "preventing poverty" as part of their mission. Their reasoning, according to Oxfam's executive director: "[Preventing poverty] may or may not involve poor people. A group of millionaires could get together to prevent their poverty, and that would not be deemed a charitable purpose." Okay. It's classic overthinking: A logical conclusion that wouldn't ever happen in the real world.... Continue reading
Posted Aug 26, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
I've several times had the misfortune of working with organizations that had a culture of disdain for their donors. Donors were seen as an undesirable, but unavoidable part of the funding structure. It was common to hear complaints about how the donors forced a simplistic and unsatisfying style of communication. Grand attempts to identify and recruit a better grade of donors happened periodically. (And always failed.) Fundraising can be hard. But it's almost impossible when you don't like donors. The root of "we hate donors" syndrome is a "we use donors" culture. A common and insidious syndrome that can start... Continue reading
Posted Aug 25, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
I have a prediction for you, and I'm pretty sure it's accurate: Some time in the next few months, you will be approached by a weasel. The weasel will look almost exactly human, so you may not notice it's a weasel. This weasel will have a lot of words, and likely some pretty pictures to entice you. It will all boil down to this: ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: I can do that for you. The weasel is either a liar or delusional. He can't create a massive viral campaign for you. Nobody can. So how does it get done? The... Continue reading
Posted Aug 21, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now
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Excerpted from my new book, The Money-Raising Nonprofit Brand: Motivating Donors to Give, Give Happily, and Keep on Giving. A well-run nonprofit is aligned around fundraising goals If your organization depends on money from fundraising, everyone should have their success, including their compensation, tied to fundraising success. Even if their role in that success may be indirect, it's still critical. If fundraising is going poorly, it's everyone's "fault." It should be more difficult for anyone to get increased rewards or promotions than when fundraising is going well. It needs to be clear that everyone rises or sinks together with their... Continue reading
Posted Aug 20, 2014 at Future Fundraising Now