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Jeff Brooks
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Every donor file I've ever looked at has Millennials in it. Not a lot of them -- usually 5% to 10% of all the donors. They've been on the file whether the organization was trying to get Millennials or not (and most were not trying). How did they get there? By not acting like Millennials. By being donors. A lot of discussion about getting Millennial donors assumes you have to do fundraising in a completely different way from the ways that work with older donors. Direct mail, the most effective and scalable way to find and cultivate older donors, is... Continue reading
Posted 7 hours ago at Future Fundraising Now
It's easier to say yes if you've recently said yes. It's harder to say yes if you've just said no. Successful fundraising builds a momentum of yes. It starts with easy yeses and works its way toward, "Yes, I'll give!" This is often what's behind survey fundraising. They tend to lob softball questions that are easy to answer with a yes. It's not useful research, but it can be good fundraising. Do you want good to prevail over evil? Yes! It's also why so often the fundraising call to action starts with the phrase YES! I want to... So construct... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Future Fundraising Now
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November might seem like it's another age from now, that you can't really think about it yet. But you should. Especially if you'd like to ramp up your storytelling abilities. Here's why: The Nonprofit Storytelling Conference November 10 - 11, 2016 Chicago Hilton That's right: The fundraising conference that's different from the others is going to be in Chicago this year. More convenient to more people! I highly recommend this conference. If you've been to any of the others and found yourself saying, that's it? -- you should consider the Nonprofit Storytelling Conference. This one really is different: There's a... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
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Here's a super-easy way to look at your donor newsletter and see if it's doing its job: Dear Donor, You rock! Here's why... Every piece of content in every donor newsletter should fit match this model. When you do that, you'll have a newsletter that raises funds, and improves donor retention by improving your donor relationships! 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 5 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
Weird thing: Andrew Olsen's Fundraising Fundamentals blog recently featured this post: 10 bad decisions nonprofits make. I don't know Andrew. I've never spoken to him. Yet if I were to come up with my own list of 10 bad nonprofit decisions, it would be pretty much the same as his: Operating without a strategic plan. Expecting nothing from your board. Not enforcing board term limits. Changing strategies and tactics that are working. Allowing people who aren't fundraisers to make decisions about your fundraising. Stopping new donor acquisition. (This one is a hidden killer that can throw you into a financial... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
Weird thing: Andrew Olsen's Fundraising Fundamentals blog recently featured this post: 10 bad decisions nonprofits make. I don't know Andrew. I've never spoken to him. Yet if I were to come up with my own list of 10 bad nonprofit decisions, it would be pretty much the same as his: Operating without a strategic plan. Expecting nothing from your board. Not enforcing board term limits. Changing strategies and tactics that are working. Allowing people who aren't fundraisers to make decisions about your fundraising. Stopping new donor acquisition. (This one is a hidden killer that can throw you into a financial... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
by guest blogger George Crankovic, Senior Writer at TrueSense Marketing. When you compare Americans with other people around the world -- especially our counterparts in Europe -- there's a lot that stands out. We work too many hours. We don't take enough vacations. We're too consumed with consumerism. We're too concerned about profit. We're too driven, often at the expense of enjoying life. So with all that, are Americans less charitable as well? In a word, no. Not according to the new GivingUSA report. For comparison's sake, according to a report from Fondation de France, about 44% of Europeans are... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
I've had front-row seats to this disaster several times: The organization's core donors (those who've been giving for three or more years) are suddenly lapsing at an alarming and unprecedented rate. Or to put it another way, the group of donors who normally have the highest retention rate of all donors are suddenly lapsing at a rate like that of brand-new donors. Panicked, we dig into the data. After a long search, the truth comes out. Thousands upon thousands of these donors have been placed on a "Do Not Solicit" list. Far more of them than could possibly have happened... Continue reading
Posted Jun 20, 2016 at Future Fundraising Now
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I saw this CDC display in an airport the other day. It's not a fundraising message, but it makes a communication error that's often made in fundraising: Here's the error: They're talking about the issue from their own point of view, not that of their audience. If you work at the CDC, your picture of Hepatitis C is that it's a big and widespread problem. So a lot of faces superimposed on a map captures that sense. For you. And the final line: Early detection can save lives is a crystallizing and motivating statement of the problem and its solution.... Continue reading
Posted Jun 16, 2016 at Future Fundraising Now
One of the ways top-notch writers make their copy readable, memorable, and persuasive is they make it rhythmic. Rhythm carries your reader along and makes the experience of reading more pleasurable. So how do you make your writing more rhythmic? Here's help from the Bad Language blog, at I got rhythm: how to write foot-tapping copy: The rule of three. (Write things in groups of three.) Short words and short sentences. (This always improves rhythm. Long words can be clunky and awkward, like a rusty wheelbarrow on the dance floor.) Read it aloud. (This is the best way to improve... Continue reading
Posted Jun 15, 2016 at Future Fundraising Now
Any time a donor gives to an organization for the first time, you should see it as a trial: The donor trying the organization. Whether or not the donor is thinking of it that way, that's what it is. It explains why the rate of subsequent giving is so low: Organizations don't past the test. From the Bloomerang blog, here are just a few ways things go wrong, at 4 Ways to Ensure a Donor Gives Only Once: Acknowledge the gift like a transaction, not a gift. (Thank like you really mean it!) Hey, we'll be in touch ... when... Continue reading
Posted Jun 14, 2016 at Future Fundraising Now
It's easy to get focused on the size of a problem. Thousands of people are homeless in our community. Hundreds of acres of forest are destroyed every day. Millions of innocent animals are euthanized every year. 24,000 children die from hunger every day. These things seem to add scope and urgency to our causes. Thing is, they don't. They make our causes seem less real to most donors. Seth Godin points this out at More than ten is too many: Time and again, we're unable to put more urgency or more value on choices that have more impact. We don't... Continue reading
Posted Jun 13, 2016 at Future Fundraising Now
Somebody has no doubt told you this: The best fundraising copy is not higher than the 6th grade reading ease level. Someone else has told you Our donors are highly educated, it would be a big mistake to talk down to them by writing at a low grade level. Statement #1 is correct. Statement #2 is wrong. The standard way reading ease is measured is the Flesch–Kincaid Grade Level, which applies a calculation to sentence length and number of three-syllable words to come up with a "grade level." Here's the important thing about reading grade levels: It's not about education.... Continue reading
Posted Jun 9, 2016 at Future Fundraising Now
Every so often, I'll read a blog post titled something like "9 ways to write better fundraising." I love pieces like that, because I'm fascinated by what people consider "short-list" critical elements for success. And as often as not, I learn something from those lists. The thing that dismays me is how often one of those 9 ways to write better fundraising is something like Find your voice. Or Be Yourself. Because "Be Yourself" is terrible advice for writing good fundraising. Nobody gives a rip about your voice. Except maybe your mother and your creative writing mentor. And Mom is... Continue reading
Posted Jun 8, 2016 at Future Fundraising Now
by guest blogger Andrew Rogers, Senior Writer at TrueSense Marketing I served my apprenticeship in the political world many campaigns ago, and the lessons I learned there still shape how I do my job as a copywriter. Nonprofit direct marketers can learn a lot from that world -- travesties like this notwithstanding. If you're not already sick of politics this year, here are my suggestions for some of those lessons we can learn. 1. Donors are activists too Not everyone wants to be a lobbyist or a candidate for office -- and having been both, I don't blame them. But... Continue reading
Posted Jun 7, 2016 at Future Fundraising Now
Last week, George Crankovic posted here an exploration of the 100% to program offer. It's a controversial issue in our industry (though not among donors), and I want to look at it in a different way. The 100% to program model does not mean (and should not claim) that there's no overhead. It merely states that someone else has covered that part of the cost of the charity, so you don't have to. That's music to some donors' ears. You may think their opinion on the matter is ill-informed (it is, in fact), but you aren't going to change their... Continue reading
Posted Jun 6, 2016 at Future Fundraising Now
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Want to know how to really screw up your career as a fundraising writer? Think of yourself as an artist. That's the useful and liberating point of this post at the Daily Egg: The Biggest Lie in Copywriting. (The lie is "I am an artist.") A writer who's an artist is someone with a vision that originates within. The most important rule the artist follows is bring that vision out. It might be obscure; that's okay. It might be difficult; that's okay. It might make readers feel like crap; that's okay too. It's all okay because it's art. It might... Continue reading
Posted Jun 3, 2016 at Future Fundraising Now
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Everybody knows that donor-focused fundraising is good. But what is it, actually? Too many fundraisers define it as "fundraising the way we wish it was." Or "fundraising our donors said they preferred" in focus groups or surveys. That's not it. Donor-focused fundraising is fundraising that works in the real world -- not in qualitative research, and not in the minds of fundraisers. The sometimes painful truth is that if we fundraisers like it, it almost surely is not donor focused. Listen to discover a new and more effective way to understand -- and create -- donor-focused fundraising. To listen, click... Continue reading
Posted Jun 2, 2016 at Future Fundraising Now
by guest blogger George Crankovic, Senior Writer at TrueSense Marketing. The 100% model -- the idea that 100% of funds raised will go to programs, none to overhead -- attracts nonprofits as well as donors. Charity:water is one well-known nonprofit following this course. But is it a good idea for your nonprofit? Let's see... First of all, if you look at it from the donor's perspective, you have to admit that it's a pretty compelling idea. "Every cent of my gift goes toward doing good" -- not to salaries or other money-wasters like electricity and pencils. Many donors have been... Continue reading
Posted Jun 1, 2016 at Future Fundraising Now
Most of the work that makes any fundraising project effective happens before you write a single word. It's the questions you ask and answer about the people you're talking to and what it is you want them to do. When you have this stuff really nailed down -- the writing is almost easy. And you prevent the wandering that causes so many projects to fail -- or at least take a lot more time than they need to. Here are a whole bunch of the questions you should ask and then answer before you start writing your next fundraising project,... Continue reading
Posted May 31, 2016 at Future Fundraising Now
Why is fundraising so hard? One reason: We barely give people a reason to give, much less talk about us and spread the word for us. Really. Can you imagine normal, sane humans saying any of these things? "You've got to hear this: I can give some amount of money and this charity will use it to research a disease and provide services for people who have the disease!" "Get this: When you buy your symphony tickets, you can add extra money to the cost of your tickets, and that will help cover the symphony's budget that isn't entirely covered... Continue reading
Posted May 27, 2016 at Future Fundraising Now
If you spend a lot of time in meetings, you've probably noticed what a waste of time many of them are. Here's some help changing that from the TechSoup Blog, at Why Your Meetings Suck (and How to Fix It): Inviting Everyone to the Meeting. (Fix: only invite those who must be there.) Not Sending Out the Agenda and Pre-work in Advance. (Fix: Absolute clarity about the purpose and desired outcome of the meeting.) Not Staying Focused on the Agenda. (Fix: Topic nomads will be prosecuted.) The Meeting Organizer Is Always the Bad Guy. (Fix: Everyone is empowered to keep... Continue reading
Posted May 26, 2016 at Future Fundraising Now
Jeff's Law Concerning Fundraising Futility Dysfunctional organizations do dysfunctional fundraising. The Even More Futile Corollary The things dysfunctional organizations do to fix their dysfunctional fundraising are also dysfunctional. ...on the other hand, functional organizations usually find it quite easy to do powerfully effective fundraising. And if they're getting it wrong, they have little trouble fixing it. If you find yourself in a dysfunctional organization, working to fix the root problems is your only real path to improvement. If the root problems are not fixable, you should probably move along. Don't let futility be the main thing that's going on in... Continue reading
Posted May 25, 2016 at Future Fundraising Now
Anyone who believe fundraising is a matter of "getting the word out" isn't really a fundraiser. (They're also not a marketer or advertiser of any kind.) Which is why the Marketing the Arts to Death blog says it's Time To Fire People Who Say 'Get The Word Out'. Spraying your message out to the general public under the belief that once they've heard what you do, they'll line up to donate is pure delusion. It doesn't happen. People give when you put a motivating proposition in front of them -- when you show them a specific way they can make... Continue reading
Posted May 24, 2016 at Future Fundraising Now
Despite fast growth several years in a row, online fundraising has not yet reached 10% of total fundraising dollars. Here are a few reasons why from the Washington Intelligence Bureau blog, at Why Snail Mail Works Best: Reliability. Mail has a much higher chance of making it into the donor's hands than an email. Emotional. The same material on paper has more emotional impact than it would online. Tactile Rewards. Touch is important. Donors can't touch email. Increased Personalization. Digital communication has an advantage in this area. But paper is catching up with digital printing. If you're serious about fundraising,... Continue reading
Posted May 23, 2016 at Future Fundraising Now