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Jeff Brooks
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Fundraising is never easy. But it's next to impossible when you do it wrong. From the GuideStar Blog, here's a word of warning: 3 Things You Should Not Do When Writing About Your Nonprofit. These three things are common reasons for fundraising failure: Failing to put donors at the center of your activities. If your fundraising is just a clear and accurate accounting of what your organization does, it's not really fundraising. Fundraising is about how donors can change the world with your organization as their tool. You're not keeping it personal. Fundraising is about people, not statistics and facts.... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
I just read a wonderful book: Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson. It closely follows the life of Leonardo, had an amazing mind and a hard time staying on task. At the end of the book is a section called "Learning from Leonardo." It gives some characteristics of Leonardo's genius that any of us can imitate in our own search for whatever it is we're searching for. I thought it would be a useful list for future fundraisers who know what still have a lot to learn, so I've added my own comments to the advice from Leonardo's life. I... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
The way people talk about "content" these days gives the impression that it's a generic commodity, like gravel or wheat. Anyone who treats their content like that will end up with content that's like that. And you won't capture the attention or donations of many donors. Here's a great post from the Duct Tape Marketing blog that can lead you toward useful, non-commodity "content," at How to Make Your Content Less Boring: Mix Up Your Medium. Mix it up. Use words, pictures, infographics, videos ... whatever tells the story best. Keep Your Copy Lively. Write at a low grade reading... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
Keeping your donors is better (easier, less expensive, more profitable) than getting new donors. That's why retention is job #1 for most fundraisers most of the time. Here's a helpful post from the Bloomerang blog, The K.I.S.S. Method For Donor Retention Is Best For Most Nonprofits with some sure-fire ways to improve your donor retention: Personalize the thank-you letter to every donor. Send thank-you letter - out within 48 hours of gift being. (Much quicker online!) Call or text new donors. Send a handwritten thank-you note to new donors and/or donors whose gift is above your average gift amount. Segment... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
A difficult challenge for many fundraisers is this: They (or someone else in their organization) feel uncomfortable with fundraising that focuses on a need. The believe showing need puts their organization in a bad light. Or maybe it "exploits" someone to talk about their need. I frequently hear the belief that "negative" fundraising might be ineffective: Won't donors be more attracted to success than to need? If you're avoiding talking about need because you think it might not work in fundraising, let me put your thoughts at ease. Need-based fundraising is far more effective than success-focused fundraising. It's been tested... Continue reading
Posted Mar 7, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
We are now in the season of Lent, a seven-week period before Easter during which many Christians practice abstention from various things as a spiritual exercise. Most faiths have similar practices. Funny thing about Lent is that whatever your spiritual goals, you also make discoveries about the things you abstain from. Things like: You don't need them as much as you thought. Sometimes life is notably better without them. That's why I think nonprofits should consider giving up a couple things for Lent. Just to see what life is like without them. Specifically, I recommend giving up these two things:... Continue reading
Posted Mar 6, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
Donors are interested in what other donors are doing. That's why social proof -- telling them what others are up to -- is often a powerful tool in fundraising. Especially for influence the amounts donors choose to give. But a recent study reported at the Neuromarketing Blog -- New Study Reveals Fundraising Risk -- reveals a potential downside to social proof: Social proof, showing what other people are doing, is a nearly certain way to boost your nonprofit donations. If you show that many others are donating, you will convert more new donors. But a new study shows there's a... Continue reading
Posted Mar 5, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
Today, March 4th, is the only date that's also a command: March forth! That's why today is National Grammar Day. I don't follow the logic either. But I'll take any chance to get nerdy about words! So here are some grammar (and usage) rules for fundraisers: Fundraising paragraphs don't need to start with a topic sentence. And each paragraph doesn't have to contain one complete idea. In fundraising, the paragraph isn't a unit of information. It's a visual structure. Try one-sentence paragraphs. One word paragraphs. Sentence fragments? No problem in fundraising. Fragments add energy to copy and improve reading ease.... Continue reading
Posted Mar 4, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
This is a detail from that famous lithograph by M. C. Escher, Relativity. I think it's a perfect picture of ineffective fundraising, and here's why: One of the figures is the fundraiser. The other is the donor. They are in the same place, their feet literally on the same steps. They're even moving the same direction. But they aren't in the same world. Each of them is anchored to a different reality, a different gravity. Even though they are right next to one another, they can't interact in any way. Have you seen fundraising like this? Yes, you have: It's... Continue reading
Posted Feb 28, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
It happens all the time: Executive directors, presidents and vice presidents, board members -- people who have the power to change your fundraising -- can't keep their hands off, and they don't understand the damage they're doing. It's hard, because they're used to being asked for their opinions. And they're used to being right -- at least perceived as right. It's even more difficult when they come from backgrounds other than fundraising. The conventions of fundraising can look wrong to them. Not knowing otherwise, they may think you're getting the message horribly wrong. Screwing it up in a way that’ll... Continue reading
Posted Feb 27, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
Maybe you've heard this insight: Our donors give 2.4 times a year. So we should only send three appeals a year. Sounds reasonable. I mean, why send 5, 10, or more appeals when you're going to get fewer than three responses? Aren't all those extra requests just a waste of money? The first error in that thinking is it confuses the average with "what everybody does." That's not what average means! But worse than that, that average number doesn't reveal what happens with donors before they give. There's evidence that it often takes more than one ask to motivate one... Continue reading
Posted Feb 26, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
Fundraising is all about a call to action. You want the donor to do something -- usually make a donation that makes something good happen. There are a lot of ways to get that wrong! Here are 10 mistakes in calls to action from the Stelter Blog: Make It About You. (Donors don't give because your organization is awesome. They give because they are awesome and you've shown them you can help them be their awesome selves.) Use It To Educate. (You can't "teach" them into giving. Show them the need and give them the action. That's all.) Hide It.... Continue reading
Posted Feb 25, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
If you want to make your website more effective, a lot of what you should look into is pretty undramatic -- making it work better and serve donors more directly. Here are some great tips for commercial websites you can use to improve your nonprofit site form the Duct Tape Marketing Blog at 10 Things to Consider About Your Website in 2019: Kill the Sliders. (They're bad user experience.) Start With a Promise to Solve a Problem. (In fundraising, show how the donor can solve the problem.) Bring Whitespace Back. Provide Fewer Choices. (Too many choices leads to a lot... Continue reading
Posted Feb 22, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
Some of the biggest fundraising disasters I've witnessed had "iron-clad" approval from focus groups and/or donor survey research. They loved it in the research! But in the real world: Nothing. Why were those donors lying to us? They seemed like such good people! Well, they weren't trying to lie. They were telling what seemed to them to be the truth. It's just that they, like all human beings, make most decisions with their emotions -- and we don't have rational access to how our emotions work. The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing. - Blaise Pascal When... Continue reading
Posted Feb 21, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
It's easy to believe fundraising is made up of a bunch of clever tactics and techniques. Those things help, but they only take you so far. Here's a great list from Fired Up Fundraising with the deeper things your organization must have together if you want to succeed: Top 10 Things to Understand About How Fundraising Really Works Today. Your leaders need to be on the same page about fundraising. (When you don't have this, you will eventually fail.) Success in fund development takes a long term, consistent effort. Investing in fundraising makes money for you. It's a profit center,... Continue reading
Posted Feb 20, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
Raising funds by email is tough. But important. Here are some tips from Constant Contact that might help, at 3 Email Trends to Ensure Success: Personal, relevant messaging reigns. (This might mean segmenting your list to more narrowly define what donors are interested in. Automation is becoming standard. (Emails automated by donor behavior -- such as cart abandonment -- or donor timing -- birthdays, anniversaries can meaningfully improve engagement. Also, resend to non-openers to boost your open. Referral marketing continues to grow. People are more likely to take action based on recommendations from friends or family members. Just ask. Continue reading
Posted Feb 19, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
Monthly donors are so valuable -- high cumulative giving and response rates that are typical higher than 90% per year ... can you upgrade them? Should you try? Yes and yes! Check out How To Raise More By "Upgrading" Your Monthly Giving Donors at the CharityHowTo Blog: Send Them Monthly Giving Appeals. (Yes, you can send them direct mail or email asks. These are your most committed people; they want to support you!) Ask Monthly Donors For An Upgrade Once A Year. Ask Monthly Donors To Leave You In Their Will. (Monthly donors are among your most likely donors to... Continue reading
Posted Feb 15, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
On this Valentine's Day, let's look at what we know about love and apply it to fundraising. Love can teach us a lot about fundraising, because both are built from human emotions, and both grow out of relationships. When you're in love, you are highly focused on your beloved. She's all you think about. She's on your mind even when other things have your attention. Do you think about your donors all the time, or just when you need funds When you're in love, everything about your beloved is wonderful. Every detail, every mannerism, every quirk is endearing. Study your... Continue reading
Posted Feb 14, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
This used to be considered a powerfully illustrative picture of a typical donor file: It's pretty accurate of most files, though if it were shaped like the actual numbers of donors, it would look more like a side view of a sombrero. A donor pyramid tells you a very basic truth: You have more donors who give lower amounts than who give higher amounts. Duh. Sometimes that is helpful, especially if you show a companion pyramid of how much revenue is coming from which donors. That one will be an upside-down pyramid. It can awaken people to the lopsided nature... Continue reading
Posted Feb 13, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
Here's how to transform your fundraising, according to a very on-target post at the Better Fundraising Blog, Ask For What Your Donor Wants, Not For What Your Organization Wants. Don't ask your donor to do what you want her to do. Here's what that often looks like: "Will you please support us?" "Join with us as we..." "Will you partner with us?" "Will you help us continue this good work?" Instead, Ask her to do what she wants to do. Here's how that looks: "Will you send X to one person today?" "Will you make a difference for one person... Continue reading
Posted Feb 12, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
Here's a mind-blowing truth about major donors from the Veritus Group Blog, at Why Qualifying Donors is Worth It. ... only about one-third of donors who give you a major gift want to relate to you in a personal and meaningful way. Think about that: A large majority of your major donors don't want the "typical" major donor treatment! If you're trying to force all your major donors into your major donor program, you're wasting your time. And probably pointlessly annoying the two-thirds who don't want it. So find out which donor should and should not get the major donor... Continue reading
Posted Feb 11, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
If you've ever looked at your own fundraising at inwardly shuddered at how unattractive it is, congratulations! You may have a winner on your hands. There's a strong inverse correlation between the likability of a message and its effectiveness. Read this recent article in Forbes: Is The Most Annoying Super Bowl Ad Ever Also The Most Effective? A 2009 Super Bowl ad for CareerBuilder (you can see it below) has been called the one of the "most annoying ads of all time" and even "the worst ad ever." Critics and ordinary viewers alike really hate this ad. But guess what:... Continue reading
Posted Feb 7, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
If you are of a certain age and took piano lessons as a kid, you might remember a book called Music Play for Every Day. It was first published in 1928, but was still in use in my childhood, some decades (ahem) later. (And you can still buy it used on Amazon!) And if you ever saw this book, the most memorable part was an illustration titled THE ROAD TO THE CLASSICS. You can see it here. I don't know if it helped many young piano students to reach the Temple of the Classics, but it sure was memorable. Especially... Continue reading
Posted Feb 6, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
We're well into the year, but it's not too late to adopt some great practices, like these 7 New Year’s Resolutions for Fundraisers from the Bloomerang Blog: Resolve to learn more about your donors. Resolve to learn from your data. Resolve to make your donors FEEL something. (That's what moves them to give!) Set a revenue goal (and a cultivation plan) for every donor in your portfolio. Resolve to dedicate 30 minutes a day to call and personally thank donors. Follow the RIGHT approach. (Connect with donors in the ways that work -- not in the ways you want to... Continue reading
Posted Feb 5, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now
by guest blogger George Crankovic. He blogs at The Clued-in Copywriter. "Will my gift matter?" It's one of the main things donors worry about. Successful fundraising helps them see that their gift does matter. But here's the rub. If your donor thinks few others will give, then she may think her gift can't matter, and the project can't be successful. So, no gift. On the other hand, if a donor thinks that lots of people will give, she might not think it's important for her to give, since the problem will likely be solved by others. Here again, she thinks... Continue reading
Posted Feb 4, 2019 at Future Fundraising Now