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Jeff Brooks
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Many nonprofit organizations live in mortal fear of complaints from donors. That's not good, because when fear leads, bad results follow. I've seen successful campaigns that were raising hundreds of thousands of dollars and motivating tens of thousands of donors to higher levels of involvement scrapped -- cancelled, because three to five donors made articulate complaints about them. But simply ignoring complaints isn't a good solution. You can control the fear by putting complaints into two classes, each of which calls for a distinct type of response: 1. "You can't please everyone" complaints Really, you can't. If you try, someone... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Future Fundraising Now
If you've had any high-level writing training, you've learned some pieces of wisdom that will make you a better writer. If you want to do well in fundraising, you need to forget many of those same pieces of wisdom. Because they will make your fundraising weaker. Here are some things "good" writers avoid ... but fundraising writers are okay with: Telling. The common writing advice is Show, don't tell. For fundraising, it should be Show and tell. If you skip "telling" in fundraising, a lot of your readers won't grasp what you want them to know or do! Repetition. In... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
From the mailbox: You can learn interesting things by carefully examining fundraising packs that show up in your mail... This piece of direct mail fundraising came to us the other day from my local PBS station, KCTS. It's worth taking a look at with a sharp eye. Please note that while this is my local public TV station, I have no inside knowledge about this piece or the KCTS fundraising program. For all I know, this could be a huge success ... or a huge failure. Everything I have to say here is guesswork. We are not members (though we... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
Here's a fact that ought to get your attention from A Direct Solution Blog: Monthly donors are 6 times more likely to leave you in their will. (How Small Recurring Gifts Lead to the Ultimate Gift) This connects two of the most important and profitable types of fundraising: monthly giving and bequest giving. Here, from A Direct Solution, are five ways to encourage your monthly donors to leave your organization in their wills: Have a donor testimonial in every newsletter you send to your monthly donors. Include a tick box on your reply form or the back of your reply... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
The single thing that matters most to the success of any fundraising project is the offer -- that thing you want your donor to do. What makes a good one? That's a big question, but here's a very useful look at what good offers have in common, from the Better Fundraising Blog, at Why a Good Fundraising Offer Works So Well: It's easy to communicate quickly. Can you say it one one or two sentences? It requires the donor to understand less about your organization. Your non-specialist donors can grasp it easily. It's emotionally powerful. It tends to be specific.... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
The right photo can propel you to fundraising success. It can say more, more powerfully than the best-written copy ever could. But that same power can sink your fundraising. All that power -- pushing in the wrong direction -- can make sure your fundraising doesn't work as it should. One of the most important ways to improve your choice of photos is to remember this: A photo is not a decoration. It is a story. Here are some ways to tell if your photos are rectangles of color rather than stories: Too small. The best photo in the world loses... Continue reading
Posted May 16, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
Anyone can tell you anything about your fundraising. How can you tell the bad advice from the good? Here's what almost always gives away bad advice. It starts with a phraise like these: I don't like it. I like it. I think... It makes me feel... If someone is using their own sense of how fundraising ought to be as their standard, they are almost certainly giving you bad, no-good, terrible advice. The thing about fundraising is that how it feels to you has little to do with how it connects with donors. How you like it gives you no... Continue reading
Posted May 15, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
What does it take to write good fundraising? It takes pretty much the same things as any other kind of writing, plus a working knowledge of fundraising and donors. That's why I like this "writing manifesto" from Articulate Marketing: How we work: our writing manifesto. It's not about fundraising, but it can help anyone be a better writer: You have no right to your readers' time. When you know this -- and believe it -- you are on the path to writing greatness. It's the amateurs who think people are sitting around waiting for their amazing words. Nobody is waiting... Continue reading
Posted May 14, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
There are a zillion ways to write a fundraising appeal, but here's an outline, in the form of the word APPEALS that can get you there quick, from John Haydon's blog: How to Write a Winning Fundraising Appeal. Note that this outline suggests that you ask 5 times. That's right. Repetition improves results! Attention. This is the hardest part. Find a way to break through the mountain of commercial clutter that surround your donor. Say (or show) something amazing. Most likely, something about the donor! First ask. Problem. Show your donor a solvable problem and make it clear that her... Continue reading
Posted May 13, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
When I first realized that being a fundraiser meant doing a lot more than writing fundraising copy, I started paying close attention to response data. One day, I thought I'd uncovered a major oversight in the way we looked at direct-mail response rates. As you know, with new donor direct-mail acquisition efforts, you're lucky if you get a 1% response. Some organizations can't ever get that high, while others routinely top it. But 1% is pretty normal. (If you got 1% response to an email, you'd think a miracle had happened.) But 1% success is a 99% failure rate, isn't... Continue reading
Posted May 9, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
Here are some common topics in a lot of fundraising that are irrelevant to donors: The huge size or massive "importance" of the cause. Your donors don't give because a problem is big or a cause is important. They give to make a difference. Make your fundraising about that difference. The geopolitical and/or historical context of your cause. These things are important for experts to know. Few donors aspire to be experts in your cause. Don't load them up with extra information. (Those few who want to know more will ask!) Your methodology. Your donors are giving to fund your... Continue reading
Posted May 8, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
A lot of fundraisers feel caught in a trap: We are required to raise unrestricted (or undesignated) funds most or all of the time. The money that keeps everything going, including the stuff donors just aren't into, like staff salaries, the electricity bill, and the cost of fundraising itself. But fundraising that works is almost always focused, specific, and about the cause, not the organization. Donors aren't sitting around thinking about how they can help great organizations like yours continue to exist. They're thinking about how to take action to make the world better in ways they care about. That's... Continue reading
Posted May 7, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
There's a reason the average age of donors is so old. And it's not because fundraising is too corny for younger people It's because of the way older people are. They are different. Their lives and the way they think and behave are different. (Don't worry, you'll be like them eventually!) This should be behind everything we do in our fundraising, and here's a great post from the Good Works Blog about what the means for us: The holy trinity of aging well: Most of us find that, after our 60th birthdays, we have more time and more breathing space.... Continue reading
Posted May 6, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
Have you been struggling to make an absolutely amazing "elevator pitch" for your organization? You might be going to the wrong floor. Maybe your pitch should be boring, according to this post at the Big Duck Blog, The case for a boring elevator pitch. I've heard a lot of nonprofit elevator pitches, and some of them are so polished and so on-brand that you can't quite tell what they actually mean. And sometimes it's a pile of words that no socially normal human being would ever say to another human in a normal social context. Instead of going that direction,... Continue reading
Posted May 2, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
Since the terrible fire in Paris and the outpouring of philanthropy to restore Notre Dame, you've probably seen the complaints: Why are people donating so much to Notre Dame? [Our cause] is much [bigger/more important/ more deserving/more local/etc.]! The short answer: Charitable giving is not a calculated, rational act. It flows from the heart. And the fire-ravaged cathedral has some attributes that are hard to beat: We experienced it together. Suppose a news story shows up in your Facebook feed: a house of worship you've never heard of in a distant country has burned down. Your reaction? Not much, I'll... Continue reading
Posted May 1, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
Email is a difficult way to raise money. Open rates are low. Response rates are often microscopic. You can improve your chances by doing three rather unexciting things with every email you send, from How to Boost Your Email Open Rate on the Shortstack blog: Focus on the Subject Line First. The subject line has more impact on open rate (and thus response) of anything you do in email. Spend about half of your writing time writing the subject line. Always make a list of 5 to 10 or more and choose the best one. Your Preheader Text Comes Next.... Continue reading
Posted Apr 30, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
One of the things that makes fundraising hard is the changing landscape we're in. Costs go up. Generations come and go. New technologies change the way people interact with us. Innovation is a must for survival. And it's the difference between greatness and failure. That's why you need to make innovation part of your job as a fundraiser. And you need to get rid of things that are holding you back. Here are some great ways to do that from Clairification, at 6 Strategies to Stop Killing Nonprofit Innovation: Let Yourself Be Stupid. Show me an organization that never does... Continue reading
Posted Apr 29, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
If you've read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, you probably enjoy the character Mr. Collins. He's a well-meaning but seriously awkward clergyman who shows up intending to marry one of the Bennet daughters. When he decides Elizabeth is his choice, be basically corners her and proposes: My reasons for marrying are, first, that I think it a right thing for every clergyman in easy circumstances (like myself) to set the example of matrimony in his parish. Secondly, that I am convinced it will add very greatly to my happiness; and thirdly ... it is the particular advice and recommendation... Continue reading
Posted Apr 25, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
Reality check from The Daily Egg: 6 Ways to Make Your Prospects HATE Your Website. It's aimed at commercial marketing websites, but these things apply very well to nonprofit websites too: Make Your Website Go Really Slow. Make Sure Your Forms Crash Regularly. Don't Talk about How You Help People -- Focus on Numero Uno. Bragging is not fundraising -- it's boring and unconvincing! Make Baseless Claims. Remember that donors are mainly older people who weren't born yesterday. They are suspicious of hype, or even things that seem like hype. Bury Your Most Important Information. Write All of Your Content... Continue reading
Posted Apr 24, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
There are a number of fundraising myths that are widely believed, but have no basis in fact. Here's a helpful post from the Abeja Solutions Blog on these myths: 6 myths that fool new fundraisers. If you are letting any of these myths drive your fundraising strategy, you are not doing the best with your resources! We need to focus on Millennial donors. We don't. Donors are overwhelmingly over age 60. Young donors give less, give less often, and have the lowest retention of all donors. (See How to beat the fundraising "Millennial gold rush".) Online channels drive most of... Continue reading
Posted Apr 23, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
You aren't going to hear about this again for a long time: The Fundraisingology Lab by Moceanic will stop taking new members on Wednesday, April 24 at midnight (US Eastern Time). At that hour, if you aren't a member, you aren't a member. (You'll have to join a waiting list, but who knows how long you might have to wait?) The doors close on Wednesday, April 24 (midnight US Eastern time). After that, no new memberships will be accepted for a long time! The Fundraisingology Lab makes fundraising easier, more effective, and a lot more fun! The Fundraisingology Lab is... Continue reading
Posted Apr 22, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
I want to point out a story told by Steven Screen: Steven wrote (and I creative-directed) a fundraising letter that won an award (I'm required to make that phrase bold). It also raised a lot of money. Looking back at the project, Steven noticed something interesting about the letter itself: It didn't mention the name of the organization. Not even once. Don't think donors couldn't tell who sent the letter. The organization's name and logo were all over the package, from the outer envelope to the reply coupon, and including the letterhead. It just wasn't in the text of the... Continue reading
Posted Apr 18, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
by guest blogger George Crankovic. He blogs at The Clued-in Copywriter. Are people more generous when they feel more connected? Yes, according to a study in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, feelings of relatedness effectively promote prosocial behavior, like donating to a charity. In the first experiment, words that invoke feelings of relatedness -- like community, together, connected, and relationship -- caused the test participants to report a greater intention toward prosocial behavior, in this case volunteering. In the second experiment, participants were asked to share a time when they experienced relatedness in their own lives. Again, sharing feelings of... Continue reading
Posted Apr 17, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
Go ahead, nobody is going to know your answers. Do any of these describe your situation? Does your fundraising campaigns sometimes flop for no reason you can discover? Are you losing donors faster than you can find new donors? Does your boss or board not give you the support you need -- they raise your goals while cutting your budget? Do your colleagues hate your fundraising and have "better ideas" they insist you put to work? Do you sometimes hate fundraising because it doesn't seem to make sense? Do you sometimes just feel like you're guessing? Good news: You can... Continue reading
Posted Apr 16, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
What does "donor centric" mean in real life? Here's a great list of examples form the Better Fundraising Blog, at 11 donor-centric sentences you can use: I'm writing you today with an important request. You are one of our most faithful donors, and I'm going to be very direct. I'm so thankful to be able to write you about this. You can really make a difference in the lives of suffering people. When you give, it's as if you're right there beside us, caring for people in the field. You'll love how your gift is multiplied by volunteers and donated... Continue reading
Posted Apr 15, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now