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Jeff Brooks
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Here's the "ask" in a direct mail appeal I recently looked at: Some patient programs are entirely funded by philanthropy. Our donors recently supported new imaging equipment that will better serve our patients. I only call it the ask because it's as close as the piece got to asking. Which is not asking. This happens quite often in fundraising. I think it's because many of us are just not comfortable with asking for money. Treat your donors with respect: Speak to them clearly, like adults and partners. If you need them to give, just say so! Hinting around at the... Continue reading
Posted 7 hours ago at Future Fundraising Now
Mention Millennials (those born 1981-1995), and a lot of people in fundraising swoon. Like they're basically a gold mine we can walk into and start grabbing nuggets any time we want. If that's what you think, please think again. And while you're doing that, read The Millennial Myth at The Agitator. Next year, Millennials will overtake Boomers as the largest generation in the US. And there are indications that culturally they are more tuned to service and philanthropy than other generations. Sounds promising, right? Reality check: Millennials are 25.9% of the US population. But they make 11% of US charitable... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Future Fundraising Now
Here's something I saw among the political emails that flooded by inbox last week: Personalized sender names. That is, my name was worked into the sender's identification that shows in the inbox. Here's one, with my full name "via" a specialized sender: And here's another that paired me up with President Obama, as if we were buddies: We've known for a long time that the sender name matters, and that if you're using a system-generated name life like you're not optimizing your email. The logic of getting the recipient's name into the sender address escapes me. But I bet... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
by guest blogger Brady Josephson is the Vice President of Innovation & Optimization at NextAfter. One of the neat things about working for a research lab that does mystery donor studies -- where we actually go out and sign up for emails and make donations to hundreds of organizations to get a better sense of the donor experience -- is that you get to see what a lot of organizations are doing. Or not doing. And one of the more surprising things I've seen is how little many nonprofits are focused on recurring giving on their websites, on donation pages,... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
Donor retention is the most important goal of fundraising, difference between success and failure for nearly everyone. It should be your focus all the time. That's why 7 Easy Retention Wins at The Agitator is worth a look: Clean up your addresses. People move around. Keep up with them with NCOA and other sources. Say "Thank You." Promptly, emotional, and often! Pick Up the Phone. Find reasons to call your donors -- not just to ask for more money, but to thank them and connect with them. Improve Your Donor Services. The commercial world is discovering the power of customer... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
Fundraising can be a real slog sometimes. It's easy to forget just how amazing this work is. Reminding yourself is an important part of staying fresh and energetic. Here are some tips on being inspired from ifundraiser, at Seven ways to get inspired as a fundraiser: Go see the work you do. Speak to someone who has a story to tell from their own visit. Go see a supporter. Call a donor to say thanks shortly after they have given. Open the postal donations. Ask online donors why they are supporting you by providing a free text box. Find your... Continue reading
Posted Nov 6, 2018 at Future Fundraising Now
Coming up in a couple weeks is a very special day: Universal Children's Day (November 20). It's recognized around the world, a really big deal, at least in some circles. But Universal Children's Day is not a reason almost any donor will ever give. If you have fundraising out there right now built on the assumption that people will give because of the day, you may have an unpleasant surprise awaiting you. My past is littered with miserably failed awareness-day appeals. And I'm not the only one. Clairification, at Not all Holiday Fundraising is Created Equal notes that awareness days... Continue reading
Posted Nov 5, 2018 at Future Fundraising Now
Here's something really worth knowing, from the Better Fundraising Blog, at The Simple Outline for Appeals That Raise Money: A (very common) appeal outline that never works: Thank you for helping in the past Let me tell you a story about someone we already helped Please help us continue this good work I see appeals that follow an outline like this all the time. You'd think it was proven, guaranteed, bullet-proof, and known to work. It doesn't. Instead, try ... The appeal outline that almost always works: There's a problem right now You are needed to solve it Here's how... Continue reading
Posted Nov 2, 2018 at Future Fundraising Now
by guest blogger George Crankovic. He blogs at The Clued-in Copywriter. It happens a lot: photos and headlines in fundraising appeals working at cross purposes, as in this example: Curious, isn't it? Here we have a headline that conveys a problem for donors to solve: "Poverty. Hunger. You can help a struggling family." But the photo shows a family that doesn't look poor or hungry. In fact, they look like they're doing just fine. That's a disconnect. On the response device, the same thing: The headline says, "My Gift to Save Lives," and the call to action is," I want... Continue reading
Posted Nov 1, 2018 at Future Fundraising Now
In honor of Halloween, when we seek that thrill of tiny fingers on the back of the neck, here are some things that should scare the heck out of fundraisers: Data problems. Bad data can kill your fundraising in the most gruesome and terrifying ways. You can end up talking to the wrong people, not talking to the right people, saying the wrong things to people -- all kinds of nightmarish things. Make sure your files are clean, complete, and accurate -- and that you're pulling what you think you are every time. Cuts to the acquisition budget When times... Continue reading
Posted Oct 31, 2018 at Future Fundraising Now
Here's what fundraising and giving looks like to us fundraisers: We think we are leading an army of "our" donors in the great work that our organizations are doing. That's not how it looks to our donors... Here's what giving looks like to donors: In the donor's world, she is not part of "your" army of donors. It's almost exactly opposite. Your organization is part of "her" army -- the charities she has assembled to accomplish her mission in life! When you understand this, you can change your fundraising to a new and more relevant orientation. You stop trying to... Continue reading
Posted Oct 30, 2018 at Future Fundraising Now
by guest blogger Christiana Stergiou, Fundraisingologist at Moceanic. It's incredibly difficult to be smart about opportunity cost. There's just something in our brains that pushes us toward bad decisions that cost us dearly. When we overcome that innate human shortcoming -- that's when we make amazingly smart decisions that can transform situations around us. What is opportunity cost when we're talking about fundraising? I've always loved the way the great Mal Warwick put it: "Opportunity cost is the money you would have raised if only you’d done things right.” It's money you never see, so you don't have to record... Continue reading
Posted Oct 29, 2018 at Future Fundraising Now
Just got this piece in the mail from the ACLU: We are not a recent donors to the ACLU, so this is donor acquisition. And I'm quite sure I've seen this before a number of times, but with a key difference: It has been a "normal" envelope color, a light brown we usually call manila. Now it's shockingly, almost sickeningly, bright green! Who does that? Where do you even get envelopes that color? And why are they doing this? My guess: Because the new crazy color does better than the old normal color. It's one of those dependable direct-mail truths:... Continue reading
Posted Oct 25, 2018 at Future Fundraising Now
Thinking about changing your organization's name? Think again. Research reported at says a name change is often harmful to the organization that does it: Brain Science Explains Why Customers Don't Like It When Companies Change Their Names. In my experience, nonprofit name-changes have nearly always been bad -- at least in the short term, and sometimes in the short and long terms. (Read more about this at How a brand change will impact revenue: Real-life figures.) Here's part of the problem with name changes, according the to report at Inc: ... "cognitive load" -- the amount of work our... Continue reading
Posted Oct 24, 2018 at Future Fundraising Now
Is it a good idea to list your board members on the letterhead in your direct mail? Short answer: Probably not. There's a useful look at this often-asked question at Bloomerang: Should Nonprofits List Board Members In Their Letterhead? The reason not to do it is this: ... it takes away from one of the most foundational elements of good donor communications: making your letters and emails all about the donors. When you list your board, you are nodding, however slightly, at their heroism. Just a little jarring note in your otherwise beautiful symphony of donor love that I know... Continue reading
Posted Oct 23, 2018 at Future Fundraising Now
by guest blogger Christiana Stergiou, Fundraisingologist at Moceanic. Just the idea of talking to donors about bequests can be overwhelming. As fundraisers, we're used to simple calls to action, quick solutions to problems, and lots of urgency. If you're good at fundraising, you are equipped to be good at bequest fundraising. But here are 12 things you should know that will make you a lot better at it: 1. Donors love to give. This is a basic truth about fundraising, but it's especially important when talking about bequests. You are not trying to get them to do something they don't... Continue reading
Posted Oct 22, 2018 at Future Fundraising Now
The customer is always right. That's the mantra of the customer service revolution. It has been for years. (Odd how infrequently one encounters it as a customer, isn't it?) It's smart customer service, and it has been imported into many nonprofit donor-service groups. It hasn't been all good. A misapplied "always right" approach plays havoc with the very idea of charitable giving to change the world. Here's how: A donor calls with one of the common complaints such as "I'm getting too much mail." The nonprofit employee, well-schooled in customer service, says something like, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry we send... Continue reading
Posted Oct 19, 2018 at Future Fundraising Now
Sometimes you hit a wall when you're working on your fundraising. And the wall does not respect your deadlines, workload, or urgency. It's just a big wall that's in your way. The bad and good news is that the wall is entirely within your head. That means you have the power to dismantle it. Or at least climb over it. But because it's in your head, it can be very hard to do those things. Here are some tips for getting past the wall when you really need to, from the Heroic Fundraising blog, at Fundraisers, Are You Hitting a... Continue reading
Posted Oct 18, 2018 at Future Fundraising Now
Leadership that's not working is the most common problem in fundraising. That's because leading is hard. Here's some help for nonprofit leaders who want to get it right, from Joan Garry's blog, at The 8 Habits of Highly Effective Nonprofit Leaders: Ask For Help Talk Less, Listen More Exude Passion Ask Really Good Questions Touch the Work Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable Apologize More Often Be Joyful I've encountered dozens of nonprofit leaders who are getting things terribly wrong, some even driving their organizations at high speed toward the cliff of failure. I haven't yet met even one who wanted to... Continue reading
Posted Oct 17, 2018 at Future Fundraising Now
Today is the last day to register for the free online workshop, 5 Steps to a Wildly Successful Bequest Fundraising Program. The sooner you register, because last time I looked, all three sessions were filling up fast. If you register now you can still grab one of those last spots! Bequest fundraising can be intimidating. You might think it will gobble up all your time and give you nothing in return. But guess what? That's not true! If you know what you're doing, bequest fundraising is not as hard as it looks. You just have to do a few things... Continue reading
Posted Oct 16, 2018 at Future Fundraising Now
Do you think your donors will only give one gift a year and asking beyond that is a potentially damaging imposition? That might be true of some. But it's not a great assumption to make, according to the Veritus Group blog. Talking about major donors (who do have a lower gift frequency than general donors), they make the important point that you shouldn't assume once-a-year is the limit of their support. After all, Donors Have LIFE! Sometimes we forget that donors donate to us because they love to do so. Asking for another gift might be exactly what will give... Continue reading
Posted Oct 15, 2018 at Future Fundraising Now
I love this post from ArtsHacker: Everything I Ever Needed To Know About Arts Marketing, I Learned From Mister Rogers. It's about arts marketing, but t could be about fundraising: Speak Clearly And Authentically Don't Be Afraid To Try New Things (Even If You're Not Very Good At Them To Start) People Like You Just The Way You Are For me, there's one more Mr. Rogers secret that can make fundraisers great: Love your audience. Mr. Roger's love for his audience is truly inspiring. And he loved them the way we should love donors: He paid attention to children. He... Continue reading
Posted Oct 12, 2018 at Future Fundraising Now
Nonprofit annual reports are among the most stressful projects out there. The stakes are always too high, and there are many opinions flying freely, a lot of them poorly informed. I have a personal policy of never working on them. No level of compensation makes it worthwhile. Maybe you've suffered through an annual report or two. If so, read this post from the Better Fundraising Blog: Is Your Annual Report Worth it? Spoiler alert: It's probably not worth it! I have cancelled a bunch of annual reports over the last ten years. We have NEVER seen a drop in giving.... Continue reading
Posted Oct 11, 2018 at Future Fundraising Now
Are you ready for Giving Tuesday? This year, it's on November 27. It might be a very big deal for you. (I've expressed my mixed skepticism and wonder about Giving Tuesday here.) To help you get ready, here's a post from npENGAGE, Creating a Giving Tuesday Strategy That's 'Just Right': Tell your donors specifically what their dollars are supporting. (Just because it's Giving Tuesday doesn't mean you shouldn't do the normal, proven things that work in fundraising every other day ... like including a strong, specific fundraising offer.) Engage donors who gave last year. (People who gave on Giving Tuesday... Continue reading
Posted Oct 10, 2018 at Future Fundraising Now
Writing a direct mail fundraising letter? Here are some things that will help you make it more effective from Pamela Grow's blog: 7 musts for writing your best fundraising appeal letter... Engage your reader right from the start. (Grab attention with the outer envelope and keep on grabbing it at every step!) Ask early and ask often! (If your message asks only one time, you're missing it.) Your Story (About one, and about how the donor can make a difference.) Your Offer (Make sure there's a specific and compelling call to action.) The Ask (How much are you asking the... Continue reading
Posted Oct 9, 2018 at Future Fundraising Now