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Jeff Brooks
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How important is it for you to have good ratings from charity watchdogs? Short answer: You can probably get away with ignoring the watchdogs, at least for now, but I wouldn't if I were you. I survey by Grey Matter Research looked into donor awareness and use of watchdogs: Charity Watchdogs: Ignore Them at Your Own Risk. Here are some of the findings: Only about of third of donors say they ever use watchdogs to check out organizations they're thinking of supporting. Awareness of the organizations is low; only half of donors have even heard of any of eight watchdogs... Continue reading
Posted 9 hours ago at Future Fundraising Now
Polls of nonprofits keep showing us that revenue is down -- way down -- as the pandemic wears on. Which keeps surprising me, because nearly every organization I'm working with has had a record-breaking fundraising year so far. What's doing on? Two things: No fundraising events. All those events cancelled. Organizations that rely on them are hurting. Though it's worth noting that many organizations have made up for the lost revenue by taking events virtual, or even repurposing event budgets to solid direct-response fundraising. Some have even done much better without the old events. Self censorship. Guess what happens when... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Future Fundraising Now
These are tough and scary times for many nonprofits. But not for all of them. Many are doing just fine. Some are doing great, even better than they've ever done. How can you make sure you are in the doing great category? Do these things: Have an urgent message. Is the need for your services up? Is revenue down? Both? That's your fundraising message. And it's a winner. Be relevant. Don't believe what you might have heard about "COVID-19 fatigue." Sure they're tired of hearing about it. But it's a huge part of their life too. Pretending it's not happening... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
I have some news for you that is either very good or very bad: Your logo doesn't really matter. It makes almost no difference. Even if it's an amazingly great logo, it's not helping you much. Even if it's a train wreck of a logo, it's not hurting you much. If you change it, make it a thousand times better, it won't help you much. And if your boss's nephew or some branding expert changes it and makes it a thousand times worse ... it won't hurt you much. I can think of one exception to this, and it's The... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
Are you being financially wise as we enter what could be a very long and deep recession? Maybe your board wants to move money into safe and stable investments. Cutting expenses, especially donor acquisition, which, after all, is a money-losing activity in the first year or so. Bad move. Cutting fundraising is financially irresponsible. Especially now, when conventional investments are lower than usual because of extremely low interest rates. That's the important message of The Cheap Money Paradox at The Agitator: If ever there was a time to substantially boost acquisition investment and increase spend on donor care and improving... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
You've seen the facts like these: An American dies from COVID-19 every minute and a half. That's the equivalent of 1,450 fully loaded airplanes crashing with no survivors. It's as if the entire city of Akron, Ohio, had been wiped from the face of the earth. We could go on and on to bring out the enormity of the tragedy we're facing. But if we're doing so to encourage people to donate, we'd be utterly defeating ourselves. The gigantic size of this problem -- any problem -- is not a reason to donate. In fact, it's a reason not to... Continue reading
Posted Oct 12, 2020 at Future Fundraising Now
Here's an example of fundcrushing I encountered while on vacation: Fundcrushing is a form of anti-fundraising that works on the mistaken assumption that people will want to respond to a situation if they understand how huge it is. It's exactly wrong. Donors are far more likely to give when they see how solvable a problem is, not how big. An overwhelmingly huge problem is actually more of a reason not to give. In this case, the daily cost of running the cathedral seems insurmountable. It's not a particularly famous building -- the only other person in the space when we... Continue reading
Posted Oct 8, 2020 at Future Fundraising Now
Donors make decisions with their hearts. Giving them lots of facts does not win them over. Donors seek to justify their decisions with facts. A few well-chosen facts can help. Donors are far more interested in what their gift means for them than what it means for you. Donors look for "bargains." Anything that makes it feel like their donation does a lot is more attractive. You can't force Donors to do anything. There's no mind control, no secret that makes them give. You have to win each donation. Donors love to donate. Donors are afraid your fundraising might be... Continue reading
Posted Oct 7, 2020 at Future Fundraising Now
Maybe you've heard someone say something like this: Our donors came through for us last spring and summer with extraordinary giving. Now we're really afraid that was it for the year -- maybe they just made their usual year-end gift back then! We're going to have the worst December ever! How likely is this scenario? While it's true that some donors are clearly in the habit of giving once a year -- and that habit is more common among high-end donors -- I'd rate the scenario as very unlikely. Except for organizations who decide for donors that they've already given... Continue reading
Posted Oct 6, 2020 at Future Fundraising Now
You want people to have a favorable impression of your organization. The more people who do, the easier it will be to raise funds. This little truth leads more fundraisers down the wrong path than a lot of flat-out myths. Because when you mix public relations with fundraising, you end up not really accomplishing either one. Read this post at the Better Fundraising Blog: You've got some PR in your fundraising. The problem with mixing the two is that the way you do public relations is completely at odds with the way you do fundraising. PR tells people that your... Continue reading
Posted Oct 5, 2020 at Future Fundraising Now
Here are the top 5 Future Fundraising Now posts from the past month: A whole lot of great ways to thank your donors 10 ways to do smart fundraising in a pandemic The catastrophic, revenue-killing mistake that you might be thinking about making right now Your foolproof crisis pandemic recession election fundraising plan Fundraising is about 2 things: Problem and solution Continue reading
Posted Oct 1, 2020 at Future Fundraising Now
You've heard about "donor fatigue." It's a theoretical state where donors tire of hearing about some specific topic -- sometimes philanthropy in general -- and they become unresponsive. There's a pair of Brooks' Laws that help clarify the realities of "donor fatigue": Donor Fatigue Law #1: A Priori Anyone who cites "donor fatigue" as a reason not to try to raise funds really means "I'm fatigued." We get tired of deploying similar messages repeatedly. It really is fatiguing, and many of us seek ways to relieve the strain. Cancelling fundraising because of donor fatigue has the obvious advantage of being... Continue reading
Posted Sep 30, 2020 at Future Fundraising Now
Great cartoon from Marketoonist. Everyone does their best to put a brave face on hard times. You do too. So while you may feel that you're the only one struggling while others are living large... They think that about you too! Be brave, do your best, and be kind! Continue reading
Posted Sep 29, 2020 at Future Fundraising Now
Your organization's founding and amazing milestones are important. They can inspire you and help you understand where you are today. But your history does not belong in your fundraising. Fundraising is about one thing: Action the donor can take now. Every sentence you spend dwelling on your past is a sentence that's not about what the donor can do right now. The story may be wonderful -- some nonprofit origins stories are amazing ... though most are pretty boring. Use your history to inspire yourself, your staff, your board, and other insiders. Keep it out of your fundraising. Part 1:... Continue reading
Posted Sep 28, 2020 at Future Fundraising Now
Nearly 60 years ago, American linguist Noam Chomsky wrote one of the most famous sentences in the English language: Colorless green ideas sleep furiously. It's a real, grammatically correct sentence. But it has no obvious understandable meaning. The point is that syntax (grammar and usage rules) and semantics (meaning) are completely different things. You can be flawless in the first area but complete mush in the second. A lot of fundraising writing suffers from this problem. It's grammatically flawless. Carefully created, edited, and proofed. Completely clean. But utter nonsense to the donors it's aimed at. Because its creators are talking... Continue reading
Posted Sep 24, 2020 at Future Fundraising Now
Donors wish you knew their name. Spelled the way they spell it. Sure, they're forgiving about mistakes. But a messed-up name is a jangly reminder that you don't know them. Donors wish you knew they are human beings. a lot of fundraising is based on this formula: Give donors X information and they will respond with X donations. That doesn't work in any other area of human relationships, and it doesn't work in fundraising. Connect with people by the heart, giving them the opportunity to do something they care about. Donors wish you knew what they really care about. They... Continue reading
Posted Sep 23, 2020 at Future Fundraising Now
You're at the grocery store (remember when we used to do that?) and you grab a box of your favorite breakfast cereal. It looks different. But you breathe a sigh of relief when you notice the prominent starburst: Great new look, same wonderful taste! They've rebranded! And they know this may cause a moment of confusion in some buyers' experience, thus the disclaimer: "Don't worry," they're saying, "We rebranded, but didn't actually change anything." I know nothing about retail marketing, so I don't know if announcing and apologizing for a brand change is smart or not. It probably comes down... Continue reading
Posted Sep 22, 2020 at Future Fundraising Now
Writing for fundraising isn't rocket science. Do a few things right, and you're most of the way to great success. Here are four quick and easy rules from the Heroic Fundraising blog, at Under the Hood: The Mechanics of Fundraising Copy: Make it easy to consume. Readability is more important than aesthetics. Write like you speak. Make it clear what you want her to do, early and often. Make your donor the hero of your appeal premise. And here's a secret: If you really nail #3 (and it's something your donors are interested in doing), you are 80% of the... Continue reading
Posted Sep 21, 2020 at Future Fundraising Now
How many nonprofit leaders have said, If only we could get Bill Gates to become a donor. All our problems would be solved! Does anyone here know Bill? It's tempting to think there's a super-donor who's willing to swoop in and support you on a massive level. It's not going to happen. Your angels aren't sitting outside your file, just waiting to be contacted. Your angels are already donors. They're just waiting for the opportunity to become angels. It's up to you to find them and cultivate them. That's what the Veritus Group blog advises at Stop Prospecting! ... sitting... Continue reading
Posted Sep 17, 2020 at Future Fundraising Now
Thanking your donors Is one of the best ways to succeed at fundraising. Donors who feel appreciated and get the sense that their giving really matters are more likely to keep on giving -- and more likely to increase their giving over time. Here are a whole lot of ideas for thanking donors, from the Bloomerang Blog, at 20 Ideas to Virtually Steward Donors: Celebrate unsung holidays perfect for expressing gratitude. Send your donor a video email of you, your clients, your staff and/or your beneficiaries thanking them. Send them a letter written by someone whose life they've changed. Call... Continue reading
Posted Sep 16, 2020 at Future Fundraising Now
It's a weird time we're in. We are likely in for continued weird-but-weird-in-strange-new-ways. Are you ready? I have some suggestions for a number of possible scenarios we all face in the coming months If the pandemic continues as is There's some evidence that donors are less responsive than they were in April, May, and June. If you are seeing that happen, keep connecting with donors. If the pandemic gets worse Will donors become more responsive? Less? Either way, keep connecting with donors. If the pandemic goes away Fat chance, at least for a while. But it if does, keep connecting... Continue reading
Posted Sep 15, 2020 at Future Fundraising Now
Hard times demand your best work. How much harder does it get than 2020? Here are some things you should always avoid -- but especially this weird and difficult year -- from Nonprofit Hub, at 4 Mistakes You Don't Want to Make as a Fundraiser in 2020: Choosing insecure tools. With more and more donations happening online, and hackers getting more and more aggressive and skillful, security is more important than ever. Don't get caught in a bad situation you can't get out of. Prioritizing profit over relationships. Fundraising only becomes profitable as you develop relationships with donors. So if... Continue reading
Posted Sep 14, 2020 at Future Fundraising Now
There are two common types of weak fundraising that are very different from each other: All-problem fundraising. Paints a picture of massive, seemingly unsolvable problems, giving the size, urgency, and terribleness of the problem as a reason donors should give. All-solution fundraising. Paints a picture of things going great, giving the happy status-quo as a reason donors should give. While on the surface these approaches are radically different, they share the same fundamental problem: They only tell half of the story the donor needs to hear. Because effective fundraising is about a problem and a solution. Both. Here's a great... Continue reading
Posted Sep 10, 2020 at Future Fundraising Now
Your organization is really on top of things. I hope. Assuming you are, that's great! You owe it to your cause, those you help, and your donors to have amazing processes that are effective and proven. But your unique approach, as excellent as it is, is not a reason for donors to donate! How often do we see fundraising that looks like this: Your gift will fund our fast action response team, who will patrol the coastal waters for distressed dolphins. When they find a suffering animal, they'll gently assess its health, then formulate a rescue plan that meets its... Continue reading
Posted Sep 9, 2020 at Future Fundraising Now
Are you doing smart pandemic fundraising? Here are some hints from the Wild Apricot Blog at 10 Tips for Direct Mail Fundraising Success in the Time of COVID-19 and Beyond. You may notice that with the exception of #1, all of these things are things you should do all the time -- not just during the pandemic. That's the way it is. These things are must-do all the time. But even more critical right now! Adjust Your Messaging. If you aren't at least addressing the fact that we're all living in a very different and very strange time, you just... Continue reading
Posted Sep 8, 2020 at Future Fundraising Now