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Jeff Brooks
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It can be hard to critique someone else's writing in a way that's helpful to them, because we tend to start with our gut feeling about it. Telling someone, Yuck! I don't think this is going to work! really isn't helpful. Nor is saying, This is awesome! I love it! Worse yet, gut feelings are not accurate. How you feel about some writing isn't important, even though that feeling may be strong. But it tells you almost nothing about the likely effectiveness of the writing. So when I need to critique a piece of fundraising writing, I start with statistics... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
There's only room for one call to action in a fundraising direct mail envelope. One thing you want your donor to do. If you're sending your donors an appeal for funds, don't try to save on postage by slipping in something that is not about that appeal for funds. Thinking about putting your newsletter in with the appeal? Don't. You'll get less response to the appeal or the newsletter. Looking for planned giving leads? That's smart. But don't do it by putting a planned giving flyer in your appeal. That will cost you both in leads and in immediate revenue.... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
Many fundraisers keep a laser-like focus on return on investment (ROI). The higher, the better. That seems to make sense. But it can limit your success and scuttle future growth, as described by the Veritus Blog, at Don’t Be Obsessed with ROI: There are far too many non-profit leaders who are obsessed with having a high return on investment – so they don’t take any risks, don’t support their staff, fail to properly invest in their major gift pipeline and ultimately don’t grow as an organization. ROI is a handy little number that can help you understand what's going on... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
Here's a new book worth reading: Green Green: Reflections on 51 Years of Raising Money for Nature by fundraising legend David Love. From this book, here are 12 Principles Of Donor Love From David Love at the MarketSmart blog: Do your homework. Know your donors. Know what they understand and respond to. There's a lot of amazing information out there, but you have to seek it out! Measure what matters. Measuring bogus stats (like "impressions") will cause you to waste a lot of money, fast. Earn respect, invite consent, and inspire conversations. Treat your donors like human being who share... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Future Fundraising Now
Excerpted from my book, The Money-Raising Nonprofit Brand: Motivating Donors to Give, Give Happily, and Keep on Giving. Fundraising is about two things: a problem and its solution. Once you show your donors a problem and help them care about it, the next step it to help them see and believe there’s a solution. They can’t (maybe shouldn’t) give if they can’t see how their gift will change things. But a solution without a problem is decaf coffee at six in the morning. It doesn’t do the job. Selling solutions is simple — yet somehow it’s one of the most... Continue reading
Posted Jun 10, 2021 at Future Fundraising Now
Fundraising a combination of two activities: Getting donors. Keeping donors. And #2 is where you become profitable. Here are seven important things you can do right now to improve donor retention, from The Agitator, at Seize This Moment: Clean up your addresses. The average mailing list has 11% undeliverable addresses. That's a steep add-on price to pay, no matter how great your fundraising. Say “Thank You.” Thank donors powerfully and promptly. It's an investment in the future of your relationship. Pick Up the Phone. Thanking donors by phone really boosts retention. Make it part of your program. Improve Your Donor... Continue reading
Posted Jun 9, 2021 at Future Fundraising Now
It's predictable. A few weeks after some new digital phenomenon gets a lot of press, you start seeing blog posts about how this Next Big Thing is going to change everything about fundraising, overturning everything from direct mail to the offering plate. Then a few months or years pass, and everyone has forgotten the old Next Big Thing, because they're talking about the new Next Big Thing. That's why I appreciate this post at Heroic Fundraising: Are NFTs the Next Big Thing in Fundraising? So are nonfungible tokens set to destroy direct mail, or anything else? Maybe, but probably not.... Continue reading
Posted Jun 8, 2021 at Future Fundraising Now
Here's some good stuff from Clairification, at Secrets to Inspire Action on Your Nonprofit Appeal: Know Your Message. "It's time for the Summer Appeal" is not fundraising. "Kids here in the community are going hungry" -- that's fundraising. Make sure you present would-be donors with a problem they care about and a solution they can envision being part of. Know Your Audience. They are not you. Pay attention to the demographics and psychographics of your donors. Watch their behavior. Be crystal-clear about who they are and what they respond to. Use Your Audience’s Words. Talk to them they way they... Continue reading
Posted Jun 7, 2021 at Future Fundraising Now
I recently came across the late Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules of Writing. Leonard was a novelist, most famously of crime fiction. But his rules apply surprisingly well to fundraising writing. Here they are, along with my annotations for fundraisers: Never open a book with weather. (Probably not a good idea for a fundraising appeal either. Unless it's about a hurricane.) Avoid prologues. (Yes!) Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue. (Yes!!) Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said." (Yes!!!) Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per... Continue reading
Posted Jun 3, 2021 at Future Fundraising Now
If you think fundraising is a kind of arm-twisting begging that annoys people and ruins your reputation ... you're probably right. The way you see what you do shapes what you do. That's why the most successful fundraisers see asking for money as a blessing that improves the lives of donors. They feel the privilege of giving donors the opportunity to make good things happen. As Amy Eisenstein says at How to Experience the True Joy of Fundraising: If you look at fundraising as something you have the privilege of doing, rather than a chore or task you’re obligated to... Continue reading
Posted Jun 2, 2021 at Future Fundraising Now
Early last year, the question fundraisers were asking was, "What's going to happen to us in this new crisis?" Now there's almost as much anxiety about what's coming as the pandemic starts to fade. Uncertainty is hard. Get some clarity about what to expect -- and what to do about it -- in this new episode of The Nonprofit MBA Podcast, Fundraising Forecast For Nonprofits in Post-Pandemic. Or search for Nonprofit MBA in your favorite podcasting app. Continue reading
Posted Jun 1, 2021 at Future Fundraising Now
Notice anything different? Has something changed? Yes and no. If you read Future Fundraising Now by email, you are seeing (or soon will see) a new look. I've switched my feed service, which is boring, back-end stuff, but necessary and important. It's a big deal in my world, not so much for you. (TL;DR: I was with Feedburner since the beginning, a service provided by Google that is soon to be shut down. I've switched to If you are a blogger facing this same situation, I recommend it. The process has not broken my brain.) You now have some... Continue reading
Posted May 28, 2021 at Future Fundraising Now
One of the main struggles of fundraising is the awkward fact that the human mind is driven first by emotion -- and secondarily by logic and reason. It's even more pronounced when it comes to charitable giving. Here are 5 Ways Neuroscience Helps Your Nonprofit Understand Donor Behavior from the StayClassy Blog: Become the answer to negative emotions. One reason people give is to "fight back" against the bad things happening around them. Keep that in mind. You empower your donors in hard times. Understand donor values. Pay attention to the values they are putting to work when they give... Continue reading
Posted May 26, 2021 at Future Fundraising Now
Amazing stories move donors to action. But almost every day I hear from nonprofits who tell me, "We don't have any amazing stories to tell!" Not true. Not even close to true. If you don't have any stories worth telling, it's most likely one or both of these attitudes in your own mind: You think life-and-death drama is the only drama that matters. Not every nonprofit is in the business of saving lives. In fact, most are not! That doesn't make your work unimportant, and it doesn't make your stories boring. Your donors care about what you do. Find the... Continue reading
Posted May 25, 2021 at Future Fundraising Now
Last month, we lost one of the giants of fundraising, and my fundraising mentor: Bob Screen. If you haven't heard of him, it's because retired a while ago and has little online presence. But if you're over a certain age, you’ve heard of him. And you probably know him as a leading figure who helped make direct-response fundraising effective and knowledge-driven like it had not been before. He was especially a pioneer in direct mail and long-form broadcast fundraising. I met him in the late 80s when I become a copywriter at his fundraising agency, Screen Communications. I had slim... Continue reading
Posted May 24, 2021 at Future Fundraising Now
Effective fundraising is fundamentally an act of generosity. That means freely giving to donors, even when that is difficult. When you do that, donors repay your generosity in kind. That's the important message at this Better Fundraising Blog post, A Generous Ego: Too many nonprofits have a hard time being generous in their fundraising. They make their fundraising all about themselves. About their process. About their programs. About their staff. About their volunteers. About how they think about their issue. They ask the donor to support their organization instead of asking the donor to help people. Here are some of... Continue reading
Posted May 20, 2021 at Future Fundraising Now
Which of your donors are most likely to leave you in their wills? Here's some data from the Stelter Blog, at 4 signs that you have a good planned giving prospect: Affinity/Loyalty. They have to feel connected with your organization. You can tell who's connected if they've made donations for 5+ years, if they've given 15 or more times (5 or more for higher ed donors). Age 60+. Yes, people younger than 60 should have estate plans, but most don't. Focus on your older donors, though it may be smart to start the conversation with donors 50 and up. No... Continue reading
Posted May 18, 2021 at Future Fundraising Now
What changed for fundraisers during the pandemic. The big change according to the 2021 M+R Benchmarks Study (and several other sources too) was a big jump in online giving. The M+R found that online revenue increased by 32% over 2019. It was even more for hunger and poverty organizations: for them, online revenue increased by 173%. More broadly, organizations that provided COVID relief, saw a 40% increase in online revenue, while those not involved in COVID increased 22%. What happened? Here's how the M+R report put it: ... when the pandemic swept across the world and into our lives, people... Continue reading
Posted May 17, 2021 at Future Fundraising Now
Here's a secret that will help you raise more money, save a lot of time, and enjoy your colleagues a lot more. It's an odd little document that only a handful of people will ever see called a brief. It's easy to launch into any fundraising project with some general goals and beliefs about how a project should turn out, and just start writing or throw it over the wall to a copywriter. Sometimes you get lucky and that works. More often, it turns into a decent into a labyrinth of confusion, conflict, and wasted time. In fact, when you... Continue reading
Posted May 13, 2021 at Future Fundraising Now
You've heard you need to tell stories to motivate donors to give. That's largely true. But maybe not in the way you're thinking. There's one super-short story -- one, maybe two, sentences long -- that almost guarantees success when you do it and do it well. It's the "action line" on your reply device (or donation page). It works best when you make it the donor's story about what their gift will accomplish. Some examples (with names changed): Yes, count me in! I want to join Springfield Environment Action and help defeat Republican Agenda with my contribution in the amount... Continue reading
Posted May 12, 2021 at Future Fundraising Now
Here's part of the menu board on a food truck near my office. They sell french dip sandwiches... (In case that's a bit hard to read, it says: Like the original french dip, all of our sandwiches come "pre dipped.") I'm a sort of french dip devotee. A good french dip is a thing of culinary beauty. I frequently order french dip, and when they're truly good -- which is surprisingly rare -- I become a very loyal customer of that establishment. So when I saw a french dip truck among the food trucks, I expected great things. But here's... Continue reading
Posted May 11, 2021 at Future Fundraising Now
Matching Fund offers are a powerful tool in all types of fundraising. Just about the only things you can do wrong with the double-your-money offer is to over-complicate it -- or not do it. Here's a helpful post from the Classy Blog, at Don't Let These 8 Donation Match Myths Hold You Back: A Donation Match Is the Same as an Employee Match. Two very different things. A donation match is a powerful motivator for all donors. Most of your donors don't have charitable giving matches available to them. A Donation Match Requires a Corporate Sponsor. You can get matching... Continue reading
Posted May 10, 2021 at Future Fundraising Now
If a nonprofit is large enough, it often has two different but related departments: One that does fundraising and another that does marketing and communications, or MarCom. There's a logical reason for this bifurcation. Fundraising is about motivating people to donate, mainly through direct-response channels. Marcom is about creating the general impression that the organization is good, and for those that sell things (like services or tickets), they do actual classic marketing and advertising. These are distinct activities, so having both can make a lot of sense. It also causes a lot of problems: Wasted money, ineffective fundraising, and pointless... Continue reading
Posted May 5, 2021 at Future Fundraising Now
When you talk to donors, there are a number of lies you are likely to hear. They aren't really lies, because the donors are doing their best to give you accurate and useful information. But they don't have access to the truth about these things. Nobody does. No matter how earnest and helpful the donors are, these common statements are incorrect, and harmfully so. If you use these statements to create strategy, you will deeply damage your fundraising revenue. You'll end up betraying the very donors who gave you the direction. Here are some common "lies" told by donors: You... Continue reading
Posted May 4, 2021 at Future Fundraising Now
The main thing I learned from the weird year 2020 (beside "don't inject bleach") was that donors are even more generous and connected than I ever thought. It was an important year, and here are 3 Things We Learned About Donors In 2020 from the Soapbox Engage Blog: We don't need to fear donor fatigue. Donors don't get tired of giving, especially when there are reasons to give. Organizations that kept in touch with donors had record years in 2020. Those that decided for donors that fatigue was real ... they had a different experience. Donors get tired of irrelevant... Continue reading
Posted May 3, 2021 at Future Fundraising Now