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Jeff Brooks
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Donor complaints rule the lives of many fundraisers, a fact that is captured by the 5th Law of Fundraising: Donor complaints are a stronger force than anything described in physics or quantum mechanics. But that's not all. Here's the 1st Addendum to the 5th Law: Imagined donor complaints are an even stronger force than that. You have probably seen this force at work: Three donors calling to complain about something in your fundraising will outweigh the hundreds or thousands of donors who responded to that same thing. Angry comments about a particular photo, or a shade of red, or the... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Future Fundraising Now
We're getting smarter all the time about how to treat donors who give online. Here are 7 Best Practices for Donor Thank You Emails from the Nonprofit Marketing Blog: Say Thank You Within a Week of Receiving a Gift Send From a Recognizable Name (not a sender that seems to be a bot!) Make Your Subject Line Specific (say "thank you" or something like it) Keep the Focus on the Donor (don't brag about your org) Acknowledge Previous Gifts Share the Impact of the Gift (with a story or testimonial) Say Thank You More Than Once (you can't say thank... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
Are there people on your team who makes changes to your fundraising with the goal of making the message more persuasive to themselves? I bet there are. Most teams have them. Whether they're inexperienced new staff or the chairman of the board, they're costing you a lot. "I like it" fundraising is not really fundraising at all. Whether someone on the team likes it or not should have no bearing. In fact, when insiders like it, it's almost certainly not on target for your donors. That's why "I like it" fundraising is nothing but a form of entertainment. A very... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
If you ever took a psychology class, you may remember Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs. It looks like this, with "low" physical needs at the bottom and "high" emotional and spiritual needs above. I'm not going to argue with Dr. Maslow. But I do have a problem with the way his pyramid is often interpreted in fundraising. I can't count how many times a Psych 101-educated fundraiser has told me that the "low" levels on the pyramid are in some way less important, less worthy, even less moral than the "high" needs at the top. That strange interpretation of life... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
Yesterday, I posted about bad ideas and how to kill them. Today, I want to tell you how to harness the positive power of bad ideas. That strange saying, There's no such thing as a bad idea is almost completely untrue, except in one situation: idea generation. When you are brainstorming -- whether in a group or on your own -- it's important to suspend judgement on ideas you generate. Truth is, there are plenty of bad ideas. Most of them are bad. But for the sake of getting stuff out there for consideration, you must let the bad ones... Continue reading
Posted Jan 8, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
You know the saying, "There's no such thing as a bad idea"? It's wrong. There are a lot of very, very bad ideas. Far more of them than good or even mediocre ideas. Bad ideas put into practice damage nonprofits of all sizes every day. You've probably noticed that sometimes the biggest part of your job can be keeping bad ideas from taking hold. That's why this post at The Agitator could matter a lot for you" 5 Tips to Kill Stupid Ideas and Still Keep Your Job. Here are the tips: Educate the Old and the Young. (Bad ideas... Continue reading
Posted Jan 7, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
I follow a lot of blogs -- around 250. Almost all have some connection with fundraising, though some rather distantly. These are the blogs I most often find inspiration, good ideas, or smart thinking. If you want a great education in fundraising, these are the top blogs to follow: The Agitator Analytical Ones The Better Fundraising Blog Bloomerang Blog The Catholic Fundraiser Clairification Communicate! Fundraiser Grrl Get Fully Funded Blog Getting Attention Hands-on Fundraising Heroic Fundraising Kivi's Nonprofit Marketing Guide Michael Rosen Says Moceanic Blog npENGAGE Pamela Grow Smart Ideas Social media marketing hacks for nonprofits Veritus Group Passionate... Continue reading
Posted Jan 4, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
Every writer of every kind sometimes faces "writers' block." Every writer, no matter how talented and experienced, also sometimes writes crappy copy. Get used to it. But there's a tool that can really minimize those painful facts of life: Freewriting. Read about how freewriting can help you at A Simple But Powerful Method For Getting More Writing Done (and Much Faster) at Here's how to do freewriting: Set a timer for 10 minutes. Start writing. Don't stop to think or read what you've written until time is up. Just write. Ignore grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Nobody else needs to... Continue reading
Posted Jan 3, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World--and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling Which statement do you agree with most? A: The world is getting better. B: The world is getting worse. C: The world is getting neither better nor worse. If you chose "B," you would be with the large majority of people worldwide who have taken the test that has this question. But you'd be wrong. The correct answer is "A" -- the world is getting better. Measurably and provably, the world is getting better. In almost every category that can be measured,... Continue reading
Posted Jan 2, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
If you visit Wikipedia, you've seen their year-end fundraising campaign. Here's one of them: What they're doing right It's easy to give. The reply is right next to the appeal (I've cropped it out to make the appeal more legible). It's a simple, well-designed form. Repetition. Every time you visit Wikipedia, you get some version of this campaign. Includes a monthly giving option. Always do this! Especially online. What they're doing wrong It's about Wikipedia, not the donor. People give to support something they use and value. Or to put their values to work. Often a mixture of both. That's... Continue reading
Posted Dec 27, 2018 at Future Fundraising Now
This is the back of the response envelope from a piece of direct mail I got recently: It offers us three super-easy fundraising lessons: 1. Don't use a bangtail envelope in direct mail A bangtail is one of those envelopes with an extended flap that allows you to combine a reply device with an envelope. It's a useful tool for situations where potential donors are physically present, like performances or other gatherings. They're not a good idea in direct mail, where testing has repeatedly shown them to be less effective than separate reply devices that donors send back in normal... Continue reading
Posted Dec 20, 2018 at Future Fundraising Now
I was writing a direct mail appeal for a medical charity, and came across this story. Here's how I wrote it: A few years ago, when [Name of Son] was a preschooler, he noticed that when he held his Dad's hand, it would stop shaking. [Son] asked if he held his Dad's hand all night, would the disease go away? That's it. The whole story. I added a bit of interpretation -- something about how the little boy somehow understood the deep truth that when we stick together (hold hands) we can overcome the disease. The letter was multiple pages.... Continue reading
Posted Dec 19, 2018 at Future Fundraising Now
Sometimes, you just can't tell what's wrong with your fundraising. It's not working, and you've tried every logical fix, but it still doesn't work. That's a frustrating feature of any kind of marketing. Or any kind of communication, really. Let me give you a non-fundraising example: A while back, an online course I was teaching wasn't getting the number of registrations expected. We took a close look and found what seemed to be an obvious culprit: the title of the course wasn't quite right. It didn't capture the benefit of the webinar in the powerful way that the stronger-selling ones... Continue reading
Posted Dec 18, 2018 at Future Fundraising Now
Here's one simple truth that will help you raise a lot more money: Your donors don't give to support your organization. They give to make the world a better place -- through your organization. Most fundraisers are not operating under that basic truth. They seem to think fundraising is a matter of showing donors how much the organization deserves their support. Here's a better way to think about it from the Better Fundraising blog at Your Donors LOVE Helping Your Beneficiaries: ... the vast majority of your donors care more about your beneficiaries than they care about your organization. And... Continue reading
Posted Dec 17, 2018 at Future Fundraising Now
Every morning on the bus I see him. He has small, close-set eyes, plump hands, thinning black hair combed over his scalp like a lattice, and a regulation tan overcoat belted tight in all weather. Worry lines like ladders climb his forehead while he hunches into a thick paperback called:... Continue reading
Posted Dec 15, 2018 at Green Walnut Catsup
Colors can pack in quite a lot of emotional information. But if there were a color that somehow compelled viewers to pay attention, I figure we'd know about it because: It would have been discovered by advertisers or propagandists many years ago. It would be licensed for use selling soft drinks and athletic shoes, thus not available for fundraising. Apparently not. According to Pantone and United Way Centraide of Canada, a new color has been developed (wait, do you develop a color, or discover it?) that will make "local issues" "#unignorable." That's also the name of the color. Here's the... Continue reading
Posted Dec 13, 2018 at Future Fundraising Now
Mystery is one of the most important (and under-used) tools for us in fundraising. It's the most dependable way to get people's attention. Email subject lines are a real laboratory for ways to grab attention. So are direct mail outer envelopes. Get those two things right -- which most of the time means creating a tantalizing mystery -- and you will raise more funds. Here's a great thought on mystery from the Monday Morning Memo, at How to Get and Hold Attention: When your subject lines harbor mysteries, you'll see your open rate rise like the sun on Easter morning.... Continue reading
Posted Dec 12, 2018 at Future Fundraising Now
Do you live in mortal fear of making typos? Don't. Sometimes mistakes are the best things that can happen in your fundraising. Most people who've been in our business for a few years have can tell stories of mind-blowing errors that drove abnormally strong fundraising performance. My theory: Many readers, on encountering an error, become very much more attentive. They're looking for more errors. As a result, they pay a lot more attention to your message. That's why the mistakes that have the most positive impact are the doozies -- the terrible typos that fill our hearts with fear. A... Continue reading
Posted Dec 11, 2018 at Future Fundraising Now
It's easy to throw around a term like donor love, meaning pretty much anything you want it to mean. Some think it means finding cute ways of saying "I love you" to donors. Some think it means not creating fundraising that you or your colleagues dislike. It might be that first one. It almost definitely is not the second one. But there are some approaches that clearly put donor love to work for you, and John Lepp listed them at SOFII: We live, breathe, eat and practice donor love every single day. Here they are: Give [you donor] opportunities to... Continue reading
Posted Dec 10, 2018 at Future Fundraising Now
I'm going to show you a paragraph from a direct mail appeal that directly harms the effectiveness of the piece it's in. You might say, I see paragraphs like that in fundraising constantly! And you'd be right. You also might say It's a perfectly reasonable thing to say. You'd be right about that too. But this paragraph -- and its thousands of cousins that litter fundraising messages everywhere -- is not really fundraising. You could call it unfundraising. (It doesn't quite sink to the level of Fundcrushing though.) Here's the paragraph: Thanks to your generous support, our work has impacted... Continue reading
Posted Dec 7, 2018 at Future Fundraising Now
How often do you see a message from a nonprofit -- often a billboard, transit ad, or print ad -- that consists of the following: The organization's logo and tagline. A stock photo of happy people. They look like random happy people, but I think they're usually meant to stand for the people the organization helps. Happy because whatever they were facing has been taken care of, thanks to the organization. Contact information: URL, phone, address. And that's it. It's surprisingly frequent. And almost completely ineffective. Proclaiming your existence is not fundraising. It's also not marketing, advertising, or branding. It... Continue reading
Posted Dec 6, 2018 at Future Fundraising Now
Have you heard this one? "If we talk like that, people will think we're unprofessional!" It's what someone at a nonprofit will sometimes say when they object to strong, urgent, emotional language in fundraising. It's not "professional." Is professional an important quality in fundraising? Or, more to the point, is seeming professional an important quality. (Because I know you are professional!) I've written a lot of fundraising for hospitals and medical centers. In that capacity, I've interviewed many patients who are also donors. Nearly all of those patient/donors, when talking about why they feel grateful and connected to the hospital... Continue reading
Posted Dec 5, 2018 at Future Fundraising Now
One of the most important things you can know about fundraising is this: What people say about their charity or your fundraising has little to do with what they do. When you believe that, you are free from taking terrible advice. People's opinions and their actions do not line up. Don't expect them to. And don't build your brand or fundraising platform based on what people tell you in surveys or focus groups. Here are a few things donors consistently tell us: You only have to ask me for a donation once a year. I'll respond with my whole year... Continue reading
Posted Dec 4, 2018 at Future Fundraising Now
Are you losing donors? If you are, you are not alone. Donor retention is dropping across our industry and in most countries. But not for all organizations. There are many, many nonprofits who are watching their donor retention climb, year after year. Usually accompanied by rising average gifts and improvements in other engagement numbers. What are those organizations doing that most of the rest are not? Short answer: They're doing a handful of things right that are still not widely practiced. One of the most important of these practices is this: Donor offers. They go to donors and ask them... Continue reading
Posted Dec 3, 2018 at Future Fundraising Now
So often, our fundraising tests look too narrowly at something we do. Here's a test that didn't fall into that habit. You can read it in a great study by the Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy, Learning to Say Thank You (downloadable PDF). Half the donors got an out-of-the-blue general thank-you letter, followed four weeks later by a renewal appeal. The other half just got the renewal appeal. A lot of tests would have just looked at the outcome of the thank-you letter in isolation. Which would probably have been: It cost us to send it, and we got nothing in... Continue reading
Posted Nov 29, 2018 at Future Fundraising Now