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Jeff Brooks
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Is your boss keeping you from doing your job right? Join the club. It's a big problem in fundraising, but it's not unique to us. The important thing is, what are you going to do about it? You have to do something. Seth Godin addresses this at The bad client/clueless boss trap: There are two secrets to doing great work: Persuade the client [boss] to let you do great work. Get better clients [bosses]. If you have a lousy boss (or terrible client), which one are you going to do? Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Future Fundraising Now
Raise your hand if you've been in this meeting: YOU: For the year-end appeal, I'm planning taking last year's very successful appeal, adding a new story and updating any information that has changed. EVERY OTHER PERSON IN THE ROOM: No! Please! Not that! We're so sick of that old appeal! This all-too-common moment is what kills many strong fundraising programs. And here's why: Just about the time you are getting bored out of your skull with your fundraising is when donors start to notice it. Repetition is good for fundraising! Re-purposing successful materials from the past is smart! You and... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
If only people knew how great our organization is -- how superb our programs, and what cool, funny, educated people we are. Everyone would be donating! You've heard it before. Maybe you've said it. I've heard it. And said it. It's the top delusion in fundraising that drives failure: It's about us. It doesn't work, because charitable giving is about the giver. They give because they want something to happen. Because they want to feel, or do, or know something. One of the most deadly way we make fundraising about ourselves is trying to show how clever we are. How... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
Donor love can transform your fundraising. And your fundraising career. But what, exactly, is donor love? It's a set of tactics aimed at winning the donor over by putting her at the center of the story. It's honoring, thanking, and listening to the donor. But donor love is also an attitude, a mindset. It's not unlike "being in love" -- it sits in the background (sometimes in the foreground) of everything you do, guiding your thinking and behavior. When you have donor love in your heart and mind, you can invent amazing new ways to connect with your donors. Here... Continue reading
Posted Feb 14, 2020 at Future Fundraising Now
Good article in Nonprofit Pro: The Death of 'X': Why 'Boring' Might Be Best for Nonprofits. In this equation, X = anything you're doing now to raise funds. You'll hear it from one-track consultants: Direct mail is dead, so you need to reinvest in millennial hoverboard/bitcoin fundraising, which I just happen to be an expert in. While it's true that our donors' use of media is shifting, which tells us that we should be doing that too -- the old media aren't dying. They're changing. Some money is moving from direct mail to email and other digital channels. So keep... Continue reading
Posted Feb 13, 2020 at Future Fundraising Now
I love big, game-changing ideas. I've seen a few of them happen. But they don't come along very often. Looking back, you forget something important about those big ideas. Most of them were preceded by big failures. Usually a lot of big failures. Like Thomas Edison's thousand attempts to create a working lightbulb before he got one to work. Many of the biggest ideas are really clusters of smaller ideas that come together because someone was willing to keep on trying. So really, if you want a massive, game-changing breakthrough, one of the best things you can do is focus... Continue reading
Posted Feb 12, 2020 at Future Fundraising Now
You've probably seen it yourself: An expert from the corporate world -- on your board, hired by your organization, speaking at an event, or otherwise blessing us with their opinion -- know exactly what we silly, ignorant nonprofit people need to be told. Even when they really don't get it. They talk down to us. Assume we really don't know anything at all. Tell us things like "You need to have a strategy!" (To be fair, some organizations don't have a strategy, so that piece of wisdom might be just what they need -- though the problem in that case... Continue reading
Posted Feb 11, 2020 at Future Fundraising Now
Want to impress everyone with your great fundraising results? Check out these fundraising truths from the Candid Blog, at You can stop guessing about what works in fundraising and what doesn't. They work for two reasons: They are true. Most fundraisers ignore them -- do it right, and you instantly rise to the top. Here they are: Don't be timid in asking. In every fundraising message, ask repeatedly. Three times if the message is very short. Or more. People don't read carefully -- they skim. If you ask just once, the chance it will not be seen is high. Arouse... Continue reading
Posted Feb 10, 2020 at Future Fundraising Now
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Excerpted from my book, The Money-Raising Nonprofit Brand: Motivating Donors to Give, Give Happily, and Keep on Giving. You've probably seen photos much like it before. It's commonly used in fundraising by urban rescue missions in the United States. It was discovered in the misty early years of direct-response fundraising. To those who have worked with rescue missions, it has a name: "Old Man Eating" -- often shortened to OME. An elderly, bearded male, sitting at a table and eating. This photo has been a key ingredient for raising money for rescue missions for a long time. For decades, missions... Continue reading
Posted Feb 6, 2020 at Future Fundraising Now
Stories are so powerful they seem like magic. But they aren't magic. When you put a story to work, you have to get it right, or it won't accomplish what you need it to accomplish. Here are three things that will give your stories some magic: Your story has to be relevant to your audience. In their world, not only in yours. Create stories about the change they can make by giving. Then you'll get some magic. Your story has to hook them. They won't read it if there isn't something to grab their attention in the first place. Write... Continue reading
Posted Feb 5, 2020 at Future Fundraising Now
You know that phony way corporations have of talking about themselves? Where it's all self-centered blather, studded with jargon terms ("stakeholders") and faddish phrases ("AI"). If an actual human spoke to you in that language, you'd either try to get away quick, or call 911 for medical help. You might be talking that way too in your fundraising. The problem is, we often base our fundraising on the marketing that's all around us. After all, fundraising is a type of marketing. What we forget to note is that most marketing is crap. Braggy, empty, boring crap. It doesn't influence anyone... Continue reading
Posted Feb 4, 2020 at Future Fundraising Now
If you don't have a monthly giving program, you are not doing fundraising right. It's getting harder to get and keep donors, so monthly giving has gone from a very good idea to a must for survival. Why do organizations not have monthly giving programs? Maybe they believe one of the common myths about it. Check out this great post from A Direct Solution and break free from the misinformation: What's the Biggest Monthly Giving Mystery? Starting a Monthly Giving Program Is Expensive. You can start online at very low cost, and build from there. Starting a Monthly Giving Program... Continue reading
Posted Feb 3, 2020 at Future Fundraising Now
When should you not ask a donor to give? It's an important question, because not asking is the most effective way there is to not receive. But there are times when not asking is the right thing to do. I can think of three specific situations when it's better not to ask than to ask: When a donor specifically requests that you not ask. Common courtesy says you don't talk to someone who doesn't want to be talked to. But in fundraising, it's better than that: When someone requests less communication, they sometimes end up giving as much or more... Continue reading
Posted Jan 30, 2020 at Future Fundraising Now
What's wrong with nonprofits, that they keep giving away stupid stuff like address labels? Don't they know that everybody hates that stuff, so it's a dumb waste of money! That's the message in a recent article on Vox: Why nonprofits give away so much crap. It's interesting, but almost 100% useless. Because the article contains almost no facts about what really happens when you send these things. Just a whole lot of anecdotes and opinions. That's the problem with a lot of discussions for freemium fundraising: It's based on opinions, not facts. And if you've paid any attention to what... Continue reading
Posted Jan 29, 2020 at Future Fundraising Now
What belongs in your donor newsletter? Quick answer: Amazing stories. All giving credit to donors for making them possible. Not much else. But there are a few other things you can very usefully include, and here's a useful guideline from the Heroic Fundraising Blog, at The Best 'Maximum Impact' Ratio for Your Donor Newsletter A balanced, impactful donor newsletter follows the 90/10 rule: 90% of your content to stories of impact and 10% to other news and updates. What should be in the 10%? Planned giving recruitment articles. Announcements of upcoming events (assuming donors are likely attendees) Volunteering opportunities Useful... Continue reading
Posted Jan 28, 2020 at Future Fundraising Now
This is an important decade for fundraisers, because it is a peak time for the yold, -- that is, the "young old," as the Japanese call people between 65 and 75. Read about this amazing group of people in The Economist, at The decade of the "young old" begins. Yold is a life-stage, not a generation. The current crop of yold are all Boomers, but as each generation passes through their 65-75 stage, they will be yold too. The yold matter to us because they mix characteristics we associate with the elderly with things we expect more from younger people.... Continue reading
Posted Jan 27, 2020 at Future Fundraising Now
If you want to use a survey in your fundraising, the most important thing to know is this: Fundraising surveys are not research. A survey that's part of an effective fundraising message is lousy research. And a survey that's designed to get meaningful research would be lousy fundraising. Here's why: The purpose of a fundraising survey is to get people thinking about your issue and saying yes about it. So when you ask, it's easy for them to say yes one more time. That means you ask softball questions that have obvious yes answers. Real research studiously avoids leading questions,... Continue reading
Posted Jan 24, 2020 at Future Fundraising Now
Here are the calls to action from several pieces of direct-mail fundraising. All are from legitimate, reputable nonprofits: Yes, I want to help [ORGANIZATION] bring medical humanitarian relief around the world. I am making a tax-deductible gift of: Yes, I care about the world's children! To help continue lifesaving programs supported by [ORGANIZATION], I have enclosed a tax-deductible, year-end gift of: Yes, I want to support excellence and quality at [SCHOOL] with a gift of: Yes! I care about kids in [LOCAL AREA] and want them to enjoy their school days. Enclosed is my gift of: The common theme? There's... Continue reading
Posted Jan 23, 2020 at Future Fundraising Now
We knew it had to happen, but it's shocking nevertheless: Boomers have hit their peak. It's all downhill from now. In 2019, the youngest Boomers entered their prime donor years -- they turned 55. In 2019, the 55-to-85 population of the US was made up of 79% Boomers (born 1946-1964) and 21% Silent Generation (born 1925-1945). Starting in 2020, Boomers are being replaced in the donor demographic by Generation Xers (born 1965-1979). (I'm using US Census figures here; the proportions are similar across the Western countries. And I'm defining "donors" as people between age 55 and 85. There are, of... Continue reading
Posted Jan 22, 2020 at Future Fundraising Now
Are you getting Donor Love wrong? If you are, you aren't alone. A common way Donor Love goes off the rails and becomes something like Donor Indifference is two bad, but common, assumptions, according to a very helpful post at Clairification: Two Ways Nonprofits Get Donor-Centered Fundraising Wrong. Those assumptions: People don't want to be asked. People don't need an ask; they will simply give spontaneously as a result of being wooed. These assumptions are bad, because they ignore basic truths of the human mind. Here the better assumptions, according to Clairification: Donors want to be asked because they're starved... Continue reading
Posted Jan 21, 2020 at Future Fundraising Now
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It doesn't make sense! That's the cry that has crushed a thousand fundraising campaigns that might have raised a lot of money the good works of the world. If you demand that your fundraising completely "make sense," you are going to hit the wall very soon. And you are completely out of step with all forms of human persuasion, which seldom make sense -- ever! Look at this piece from my mailbox from CARE. Here's the carrier envelope. Notice the little peel-off sticker. Why is it there? What does it do? Maybe we'll find out by opening the envelope and... Continue reading
Posted Jan 16, 2020 at Future Fundraising Now
In at least one small way, we are living in a Golden Age. The problem with most Golden Ages is you don't know about them until they're over. Then you realize the "normal" you'd grown used to was actually a special situation that had to end eventually. What's the Golden Age I'm talking about? Handwritten cards that can be produced quickly, at reasonable cost, and really get the attention of recipients. As noted on the Adaptistration blog, at The Coming Arms Race That Is Robot Driven Handwritten Notes, it's a technology thing. Machines that produce amazingly real-looking fake handwriting: Robot... Continue reading
Posted Jan 14, 2020 at Future Fundraising Now
You may have already written and designed your 2020 year-end campaign. Think how much time you'll save nine or ten months from now? When did you do it? When you created your 2019 campaign. Or maybe some year before that. If something works in your fundraising, you should repeat it. Don't reinvent that particular wheel! You have too much on your to-do list anyway. Re-using old material that worked not only saves time and money, it increases your chance of success. Because every time you create something new, you risk failure. That's not meant to scare you -- it's just... Continue reading
Posted Jan 13, 2020 at Future Fundraising Now
There's a sloppy set of assumptions floating around the fundraising community that I believe does deep harm to our work and ourselves. It's the trope that fundraising is basically dishonest, but it has to be that way because donors force it on us. If fundraising were really like that, I'd go find something honest to do, like sell used cars. You can see the "donors make us dishonest" attitude in this recent post at the Guardians' Voluntary Sector Network blog: We must hook donors in but I feel downright sick at the picture charities paint. In charity marketing we know... Continue reading
Posted Jan 9, 2020 at Future Fundraising Now
It's surprisingly easy: Don't instruct; inspire. People don't give because you've made them understand how you do your work. They give when they can see how your organization helps make them awesome. They give when your fundraising makes them say, That's something I want to do! Not, I now fully understand these processes and I believe they are sufficiently excellent. If donors were robots, the latter would work. They aren't. So it doesn't. Make your fundraising all about the amazing things donors can do through your organization. Then find the people who want to do those things. That's the secret. Continue reading
Posted Jan 8, 2020 at Future Fundraising Now