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Jeff Brooks
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There are often a lot of cooks in the fundraising kitchen. Many of them know nothing about cooking. But that doesn’t keep them from having strong opinions about what does and doesn’t work in fundraising. Here’s a very helpful post from Hands-On Fundraising that give some of the most common uneducated ideas about fundraising messages: They challenge your fundraising appeal. How should you respond? I can vouch that these are super-common ideas. And that they are very bad ideas! Does the letter really have to be two (or four, or more) pages? With very rare exceptions, longer letters work better.... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
As donor-advised funds explode in popularity, you increasingly have donors with DAFs. And those donors have the potential to be midvalue or major donors and to leave bequests. Here’s some help for maximizing your DAF donors, from the Masterworks Blog, at 7 Ways to Inspire Donors to Give With a Donor-Advised Fund: Identify donors who have given DAFs and cultivate them. Track their DAF donations as “soft credits.” Quickly and appropriately acknowledge the donor who recommended the DAF gift. Use donor engagement or preference surveys to see if you can get DAF donors to identify themselves. Treat DAF supporters as... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
Here’s a useful checklist for email fundraisers, from the Hubspot Marketing Blog: 20 Email Best Practices That Actually Drive Results. It’s aimed at commercial emailers, but most of the hints work for fundraising too. Don't purchase contact lists. It’s basically paying to be labeled a spammer. Avoid using 'No-Reply' in the sender's email address. Let your recipients talk back to you in the way they prefer! Stick to fewer than three typefaces. Optimize the email's preview text. It can work with your subject line to improve open rates. Include an email signature. Clean your mailing list regularly. Keep the main... Continue reading
Posted Nov 21, 2023 at Future Fundraising Now
Giving Tuesday is on a Sunday this year. Not that Giving Tuesday ... the real one. December 31. Giving Tuesday (the “official” one) is a big day for some organizations. But not for everyone. December 31 is a much bigger day. For nearly all organizations, it is by far the biggest online giving day of the year. If there’s a day you should be worried about being prepared for, it’s December 31. If you’ve raised a lot on past Giving Tuesdays, keep at it. Think about adding more messaging. If Giving Tuesday is weak for you, consider giving it a... Continue reading
Posted Nov 20, 2023 at Future Fundraising Now
Has someone told you lately that direct mail fundraising no longer works? Maybe you’ve also seen direct mail response rates go down. While costs go up. But before you pull the plug on your direct mail program, consider this post from the BDI Blog: Direct Mail: It’s Alive! 3 Reasons Why It Still Works in Fundraising. It might change your mind: Mail is still preferred by most of your donors. I know it may be hard to get your head around this, when you personally don’t interact with direct mail. But the numbers confirm it. Mail still works. It may... Continue reading
Posted Nov 16, 2023 at Future Fundraising Now
“No” means “no.” Right? In fundraising: kinda, sorta. The very helpful book, The Influential Fundraiser: Using the Psychology of Persuasion to Achieve Outstanding Results by Bernard Ross and Clare Segal, takes a close look at what NO might mean in a face-to-face conversation with a donor where you specifically ask for a donation. There are at least nine specific colors of a donor’s “no”: No, not for this No, not you No, not me No, not unless No, not in this way No, not now No, too much No, too little No, go away In direct mail, there’s a 10th... Continue reading
Posted Nov 15, 2023 at Future Fundraising Now
It is widely believed in fundraising circles that donors respond to our stories of success, that they want to join success. And that stories of need, of problems, are repellent to most donors. I don’t know where that belief comes from. Not from reality, I’m sorry to say. Check out this post on the Bloomerang Blog, which asks (and then answers) the question, Do Negativity And Alarm Really Raise More Funds? Negative events impact our brains more than positive events. Psychologists refer to this as negative bias, and it can have a powerful effect on your behavior, your decisions—even your... Continue reading
Posted Nov 14, 2023 at Future Fundraising Now
Here are some great tips for improving fundraising messages, from Clairification, at Top 10 Fundraising Appeal Writing Tips: Begin with drama and get right to the point. Don’t spend a paragraph or three introducing yourself and thanking the donor for the past giving. (Save that for the end of the letter.) PRO TIP: Your first few paragraphs of your first draft are probably garbage that you need to cut. Not just you: Everybody. Lead with easy to read, understandable copy and design. Good reading ease score, large serif font, black type against white background. Use a conversational tone; understand donors... Continue reading
Posted Nov 13, 2023 at Future Fundraising Now
The most important thing you can learn about fundraising — the one thing that can make the difference between mediocrity and big-time success — it’s this: It’s not about you. It’s about your donor! It’s so easy to talk about how great our organization is … and to forget that donors don’t give because you’re awesome. They give because they are awesome. That’s why successful fundraising is about donors, not about us. From the archives of the now-defunct podcast Fundraising Is Beautiful. This episode first aired on January 18, 2018. Listen here: (If you don't see the audio player below,... Continue reading
Posted Nov 9, 2023 at Future Fundraising Now
A lot of fundraisers look at the messages they and others are sending out, and they just feel tired. “Why is our fundraising like that?” they ask. “Why so old-fashioned? Why so much like last year and every year?” I understand. Doing the same old thing year after year really does get old. You know what I’m going to say next: We do the same old same old because it works. But there’s more to it than that. Look at this Christmas appeal from The Salvation Army. You can hardly imagine a more same-old same-old piece of direct mail. Yawn.... Continue reading
Posted Nov 8, 2023 at Future Fundraising Now
A lot of fundraisers look at the messages they and others are sending out, and they just feel tired. “Why is our fundraising like that?” they ask. “Why so old-fashioned? Why so much like last year and every year?” I understand. Doing the same old thing year after year really does get old. You know what I’m going to say next: We do the same old same old because it works. But there’s more to it than that. Look at this Christmas appeal from The Salvation Army. You can hardly imagine a more same-old same-old piece of direct mail. Yawn.... Continue reading
Posted Nov 7, 2023 at Future Fundraising Now
I'm afraid you're probably right about that, at least some of the time.
Take a look at this page. It’s an early draft of chapter 5 of The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky. It’s a mess! The Brothers Karamazov is decidedly not a mess. It’s one of the greatest novels ever written. I urge you to read it. Every piece of effective writing goes through a “mess” stage. We try and try to skip that stage and go straight to final draft. That seldom works. Let the mess happen! It’s the best way forward. Continue reading
Posted Nov 6, 2023 at Future Fundraising Now
Here’s a blog post from the Better Fundraising Blog that will help you raise more money on your next project: Top 5 Appeal Tips: The only good news in an appeal should be that the donor’s gift today will help. Future good news, not past. Yes, you have done and are doing great work. But when you go to donors to say that, you elicit congratulations, not donations. Asking should be about solving problems. Not about previously solved problems. Avoid “we” and “our” language. Write like you’re one person connecting with another person. You’ll raise more money. Include no more... Continue reading
Posted Nov 2, 2023 at Future Fundraising Now
Here are the 5 most-read Future Fundraising Now blog posts in the month of October: How verbs can power your fundraising writing Why it’s hard to raise funds for hospitals How to avoid donor complaints Engagement fundraising — how you raise the big bucks from the happiest donors [PODCAST] Donors love to rescue struggling nonprofits Looking for some really good (and specific) advice for your fundraising? Book a FREE consultation with Sean Triner of Moceanic. Sean knows his stuff, and can help you find your way forward. Continue reading
Posted Nov 1, 2023 at Future Fundraising Now
In honor of Halloween, when we seek that thrill of tiny fingers on the back of the neck, here are some things that should scare the heck out of fundraisers: Data problems. Bad data can kill your fundraising in the most gruesome and terrifying ways. You can end up talking to the wrong people, not talking to the right people, saying the wrong things to people -- all kinds of nightmarish things. Make sure your files are clean, complete, and accurate -- and that you're pulling what you think you are every time. Cuts to the acquisition budget. When times... Continue reading
Posted Oct 31, 2023 at Future Fundraising Now
A lot of us have had a tough year this year. Fundraising results have dropped from their pandemic highs. Inflation was hitting many donors. Two big wars have pulled donors away from giving as much to some causes. Giving is down for many organization. Badly down for some. If that’s you, do your donors know? They could help you in a big way. But a lot of organizations conceal their troubles from donors, under the belief that “donors would rather give to success than to failure” or something similar. That’s mostly a myth. If your organization is facing a financial... Continue reading
Posted Oct 30, 2023 at Future Fundraising Now
If you're a fundraiser, and you don't give to charities yourself, you are only half a fundraiser. You'll never be fully effective. You may be blessed with intelligence, imagination, and insight -- but a fundraiser who isn't a donor is no better than a parrot, or a machine. Charitable giving is an act of the heart. And the heart, as Pascal noted, has its reasons of which reason knows nothing. If your heart is inexperienced in the act of giving, the entire enterprise of fundraising and giving will be opaque to you. Donors live in the Garden; you inhabit a... Continue reading
Posted Oct 26, 2023 at Future Fundraising Now
Too many fundraisers are sending weak and ineffective fundraising to their major donors. The cost of that is unknowable, but it’s high. I know that because I’ve seen what happens when fundraisers change course and start sending their best work to their major donors. The problem is, many fundraisers make a series of assumptions about major donors that simply aren’t supported by reality. Here’s what they sometimes do: Soft or indirect asks. They hint around, afraid that being too direct will drive them away. They seem to believe that major donors are sensitive plants who shrink from strong, clear, straightforward... Continue reading
Posted Oct 25, 2023 at Future Fundraising Now
I know exactly what’s keeping you from being the best writer you can be. I know because it’s the same for every writer I’ve ever known. Including myself. The top barrier to the best writing you have in you is this: You are trying to write and edit at the same time. And that makes you less effective at both. Here’s what I mean: Good writing is produced by two very different processes working together: Writing and editing. Writing is creative, innovative, exuberant, and messy. It is your best thinking finding its way toward clear and strong expression. It likely... Continue reading
Posted Oct 24, 2023 at Future Fundraising Now
This is a powerful and super-informative interview with Greg Warner, founder of MarketSmart. The secret to accelerating your fundraising program is this: find the right level of engagement and giving for every donor, especially: Those who will leave your organization a bequest. Those with the capacity to become mid-level or major donors. How do you discover this? Some combination of science and magic? Or just ask them? You’ll love Greg’s energy and passion as he describes all the love we’re missing by not asking — engaging with — donors. From the archives of the now-defunct podcast Fundraising Is Beautiful. This... Continue reading
Posted Oct 19, 2023 at Future Fundraising Now
Some fundraisers would have you believe you're doing your donors a big favor by "leaving them alone." By going silent on them. By not giving them opportunities to give. The Veritus Group Blog begs to differ, at Not Asking = Less Love: Showering your donor with love ultimately means challenging your donor to make a greater impact in the world. And as a major gift fundraiser, you know that donors who make great impact through their giving will experience a tremendous amount of joy. Ask, and ask boldly of your donors. That is real love. My only caveat to this:... Continue reading
Posted Oct 18, 2023 at Future Fundraising Now
I’ve been helping nonprofit hospitals with their fundraising for a lot of years. It’s hard work. And it routinely brings in less response than other fundraising sectors. There are a number of reasons for this, some of which you can’t do anything about. Please note that I’m talking specifically about hospital fundraising in the US. The challenges in other countries are different. Here’s what they are: One audience, two messages Marketing healthcare and fundraising for healthcare use very different types of messages: marketing of a hospital needs to emphasize that the organization is superhuman, able to save your life. Fundraising... Continue reading
Posted Oct 17, 2023 at Future Fundraising Now
The most deadly enemy of fundraising success is noise. Donor’s lives and inboxes and mailboxes are packed with noisy communications vying for attention. You have to break through all that before you even have a chance of getting someone to give. Here’s help from the Better Fundraising Blog, at The Regular Kind, or ‘How to Break Through the Noise’ Figure Out What It Is About Your Cause That Makes People Emotional. This can be a challenge. Because what makes you and other insiders care is likely quite different from what makes outsiders feel it ... and your connection is probably... Continue reading
Posted Oct 16, 2023 at Future Fundraising Now
So you talked some fundraising expert into taking a look at your fundraising project. Nice? Did you send the expert just the direct mail letter or email message? If so, the expert can't help you much. Direct mail is never just a letter. It's an envelope carrying a few things, each having some impact on the effectiveness of the piece: The carrier envelope is the most important. If it doesn't entice people to open it, it doesn't matter how powerful your letter is. The pack will fail. The reply device is the active ingredient. It has to be just as... Continue reading
Posted Oct 12, 2023 at Future Fundraising Now