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Jeff Brooks
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Yikes! Calling donors to thank them has no impact on subsequent giving? That's what a recent very large study found (abstract here), as reported by Change Fundraising at Thank You Calls Are Pointless. Wait ... What? Seriously, that's what the study found. It involved hundreds of thousands of calls. Does this tell us that thanking donors is a big waste of time and money? That's not what I've experienced. In my experience, making thank you calls to donors has had a meaningful positive impact on subsequent giving. Many other experienced fundraisers will tell you the same. But few of us... Continue reading
Posted 13 hours ago at Future Fundraising Now
A few years ago, there was a cheese shortage. I'm still scarred by it. Specifically, it was a shortage of Tillamook Sharp Cheddar cheese. If you don't live on the US West Coast, you may not be aware of Tillamook Sharp Cheddar. If that's the case, I pity you. But during the Great Cheese Shortage, it was bad for all of us. They didn't make enough Tillamook Sharp Cheddar, and ran out. It takes a long time to make it. And that caught a lot of people's attention. Honestly, I doubt this brand of cheese is all that different from... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
The CD arrived on my front porch and I eagerly tore open the packaging. (Yes, I still listen to music on CDs, at least sometimes!) It was a new album I was excited to hear (more on that in a bit). I pushed it into the CD player and sat back to enjoy it while going through the "liner notes" in the CD case (remember liner notes?). Right away I came to an essay from a music critic about the recording. It started like this: Most revolutions fizzle and their forgotten, weak coups disband scarcely before the smoke from the... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
Virtually every myth you've ever heard, and most of the books you've read and movies you've seen have pretty much the same plot. Joseph Campbell, an American scholar, "discovered" this in the middle of the last century. He called it the "monomyth" or the Hero's Journey. Every hero goes through the same basic pattern on his or her journey of transformation. And so does every donor. For donors, the cycle starts with "ordinary life," then moves to knowing about the cause to caring about the cause, to giving. Then the donor experiences transformation ... until she returns to ordinary life,... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
If donors were ATMs, then an endless string of asks would be an effective way of raising funds. But they're human. And that means they want some kind of relationship that's on their terms. Here are some great ways to build a relationship with donors from Clairification, at 4 Ways to Consciously Keep Donors Connected: Give donors the information they want. They mainly want to know if their donation will do (or did do) anything. And they want to read stories of the difference. And they want to be thanked. They don't care that much to be educated about your... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
Do you need your donors? Then tell them so! I know that sounds like relationship advice from a talk-show psychologist, but it needs to be said. So many fundraisers instead practice We Have It All Together fundraising: They believe that fundraising consists of showing donors how effective and successful they are, and invite donors to jump aboard the We Have It All Together Bandwagon. No wonder so many donors think they aren't important to the organizations they support. We Have It All Together Fundraising inadvertently tells them things are fine without them. Unless you have a funding structure that makes... Continue reading
Posted Jul 11, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
If you are a fundraiser, you need to see this TED Talk: How to buy happiness: (Or view it here.) The main conclusion: Almost everywhere we look, we see that giving money away makes you happier than keeping it for yourself. Here are a couple of important takeaways: While I suspect many donors know that giving makes you feel good, it might be a useful thing to say in your fundraising: "You know how donating makes your day!" If you have any worry that you are diminishing the lives of donor by taking their money, you can put that to... Continue reading
Posted Jul 10, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
Some people think so. But the evidence is scarce. The change in the tax law (which took effect in 2018) that matters to us is that the standard deduction is much higher than before. That means fewer people itemize their deductions, thus those whose donations to charity specifically lower their tax bill is lower. Here's an interesting post on the Douglas Shaw & Associates Blog, outlining a direct mail test done at the end of last year that explores whether or not the tax law has killed philanthropy: Does tax-deductibility really motivate giving? The test had two versions of a... Continue reading
Posted Jul 9, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
How much of your time and money spend on branding? Here's a helpful look at this question from Business Made Simple, The Difference Between Marketing and Branding: (Or view it here on YouTube. He's speaking to commercial marketers, so there's a slight difference in definitions from our world: What he calls "marketing," we usually call "fundraising." It's activities directly aimed at getting people to give us money. What he calls "branding," we sometimes call "marketing" -- it's activities aimed at making people certain ways about our organization, which, done right, should move them toward giving us money -- but not... Continue reading
Posted Jul 8, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
Most of the donors you get never give a second time. It's a painful and expensive fact of life, but you aren't completely helpless. There are things you can do to keep those donors ... and retention is the foundation of a working fundraising program. Here's some help from the GuideStar Blog, at Donor Retention: 6 Ways to Create Lasting Relationships: Decide if building a relationship even makes sense. Not every donor is worth the extra effort (cost) of building a relationship. Very low-dollar donors and most peer-to-peer and memorial donors are less likely to respond to anything you do... Continue reading
Posted Jul 2, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
When you raise funds, what are you asking your donor to do? If your message is a description of how you do your work and the call to action is "fund this wonderful process" -- you are not doing your best fundraising. This helpful post at the Veritus Group Blog points out one of the main things you need to know about motivating donors to action: In Fundraising, It's About the Problem, NOT the Process. Your donors aren't interested in funding your processes. They want to solve a problem: There is a direct link between generous giving and the donor's... Continue reading
Posted Jul 1, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
You're walking along a city sidewalk. Suddenly a panhandler is walking next to you, cajoling you for a handout. Just a dollar! Just fifty cents! I need some food! You quickly conclude that the easiest way to get rid of him is not to confront him and send him away, but to dig some coins out of your pocket and give him a few. His fundraising tactic works. But it isn't geared to an ongoing relationship. He gets the coins he's after, but he starts from square one every single day. Are you afraid your fundraising is like that --... Continue reading
Posted Jun 27, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
Research shows an interesting thing that happens to most people some time around the age of 50: Your motivation shifts away from achievement and success and moves toward "significance." What you want gets less about "winning" and more about "mattering." If you are well under 50, you may have to suspend your disbelief as you read this, because it seems utterly alien to the way you think. But it's a meaningful and important change. Part of the reason older people are more likely to be donors than younger people: Giving helps your sense of significance a lot more than it... Continue reading
Posted Jun 26, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
Does your newsletter and/or website contain any of the following? News about the accomplishments of your staff. Photos of well-heeled donors presenting giant checks to your organization. Detailed history of your organization. Photos of people standing around (possibly holding wine glasses) at your fundraising event. Articles explaining how your programs and processes work. Manifestos about how your approach is superior to others'. If you answered yes to any of these, your organization may suffer from Nonprofit Navel-Gazing Syndrome, or NPNGS (pronounced "nippings"). This condition can cause nonprofits to believe that if donors just understood them and grasped how awesome they... Continue reading
Posted Jun 25, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
How well do you know your donors? The better you know them, the more effective you can be at raising funds. Here are five great tips from the Bloomerang Blog, at How to Understand Your Donors: Be a donor yourself. If you aren't a donor, you really don't get what's going on! Ask donors what they think. Surveys -- quantitative or qualitative -- and really open your eyes about who donors are and what they think. Call and talk to them. Talk to as many donors as possible! Invite them over. If it's practical, have donors come to your facilities... Continue reading
Posted Jun 24, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
Ha! No, it was a "real" typo (now fixed). Typos are embarrassing, but they seldom do any actual damage to fundraising response.
This is probably the most common fundraising mistake of all, the main reason many nonprofits struggle to get the support they need: telling donors the wrong story -- a story that's extremely unlikely to connect with or motivate them to give. It's a reasonable error that comes from communicating what seems to make sense to us: Our cause is ultra-important. Our approach to it is effective and awesome. If people just knew those things, they'd be throwing donations at us! All fine, except that approach is out of step with reality. Sasha Dichter's Blog captures the problem precisely at Getting... Continue reading
Posted Jun 20, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
It used to be that what you did in direct mail stayed in direct mail. It was nice, neat, and easy to measure. But these days, donors cross channel boundaries all the time. You can't fight it or change their behavior -- you have to work with it. Here's a post from Stelter Insights -- The truth about direct mail and digital marketing -- that can help you navigate this difficult reality: Be one voice and visual across all channels. Silos that cause your online and offline voice to be unlike each can kill your fundraising by confusing donors. Use... Continue reading
Posted Jun 19, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
Thanking donors is good. Thanking them well is even better. The difference between okay thanking and great thanking? Fond out at this post on The Better Fundraising Blog: How to Thank Your Donor so She Actually Feels Thanked. The main secret? When you thank your donor for giving, talk about her. Not you. It's easy to slip into praising the programs your donor has made possible by giving. But that's not the point. The point while you're thanking is to keep the focus on the donor: ... if you talk to donors about their lives, their values and their impact,... Continue reading
Posted Jun 18, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
You'll do twice as much good when matching funds double your donation! Match offers are big winners in fundraising, and if you aren't using them, you aren't raising as much as you could. Why do they work? This post from the Heroic Fundraising Blog (5 Reasons Why a Matching Grant Appeal Should Be Part of Your Fundraising Strategy) has some thoughts. A match offer: Presents the donor with a specific offer. The second you use the word "match," you've stepped into the Land of Specificity, which is the Promised Land of fundraising. You're saying something concrete about what donations will... Continue reading
Posted Jun 17, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
Is your fundraising 100% "accurate"? What exactly would complete accuracy look like? A recent study in the UK (published at Sociological Research Online) pokes a stick into an issue some fundraisers spend a lot of energy worrying about. The study, as reported by Third Sector magazine -- Homelessness charities should stick with stereotypical images of beneficiaries, report says -- asked subjects what homeless people look like. Subjects overwhelmingly identified bearded older men who sleep on the streets. If you've ever done fundraising related to homelessness, this won't surprise you. That's the imagery that works. The "problem" is that older men... Continue reading
Posted Jun 12, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
Suppose I told you there's a fundraising tool that will do these things: Gather information on what motivates your best donors to give, so you can speak more personally and relevantly to them. Meaningfully increase your number of monthly donors. Help you find and upgrade mid-value and major donors who've been "hiding" among your general donors. Find donors who are ready to put your organization in their Wills -- resulting in a revenue windfall that will play out for years to come. I'm not blowing smoke. This is a real thing, a project you can easily put to work now.... Continue reading
Posted Jun 11, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
This envelope makes one of the most common errors in direct mail fundraising. Can you see what it is? No mystery! There is no reason for someone to open this envelope, because it fully reveals what's inside. My experience bears this out: With some exceptions, no-mystery envelopes do poorly. Here's another one. This one doesn't give everything away like the envelope above, but it is very clear: In this envelope is a fundraising appeal. So unless the recipient has been waiting by the mailbox and thinking, I really hope there's a fundraising appeal today -- it is unlikely to get... Continue reading
Posted Jun 10, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
Why do nonprofits have galas and other large events meant to raise money? I think it's because planning and pulling off a gala is a lot less scary than the real work of fundraising. All you have to do is work your way through a huge (massive!) to-do list, then you have some fun, and then you're done. And you've probably raised some money. The problem is, most fundraising events are not successful. A few are great, but if the true cost were actually counted against the funds raised, most events would be cancelled without a second thought. The biggest... Continue reading
Posted Jun 6, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
A standard piece of writing advice is Write with nouns and verbs, not adjectives and adverbs. It's good advice for fundraising writing too. It can be tempting to pile on the adjectives (modify nouns) and adverbs (modify verbs and usually end with -ly) because they seem to make your writing more vivid. But that usually backfires. Here's a great post on writing from ProActive Content -- Fundraising Copywriting Smackdown: Verbs vs Adjectives -- on the impact of scaling back your modifiers. Here's what happens when you do that: It Removes Unnecessary Excess. Those modifiers are less informative than you think.... Continue reading
Posted Jun 5, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now