This was another year of adaptation. Settling into some things, while feeling decidedly unsettled in others. Opening our eyes, minds and hearts to see, and be, things clearly.
This year continued to mark a shift in the direction of my content, as “business as usual” seemed out of sync with the times we found ourselves in. Much of the heart of fundraising remains constant, while much of the practice and culture is evolving. It is a time in which feeling our humanity, and coming from a place of love, seems more important than ever.
Today I summarize my writing of the year by sharing the articles that most resonated with readers out of the 70+ I created for 2021, including some popular oldies.
In case you missed them, here are last year’s blog posts with the most views, according to Google Analytics.
Plus, at the end, I’m sharing some photos I hope you’ll enjoy!
10. Anatomy of a Coronavirus Nonprofit Email + Thank You
I wrote this early in the pandemic. It was #1 on the list last year, and happily moved down to #10 this year. Yet it’s still on the top 10 countdown. As much as we wish the pandemic was over… Use this as an 8-point “communication audit” process to evaluate any of your fundraising and marketing messages to assure they hit the right tone and speak directly to your audience.
9. How to Write a Foolproof Nonprofit Grant Proposal
In my 30 years of in-the-trenches practice I was a generalist. I’ve done it all. Annual, Major, Capital, Endowment, Events and, of course, plenty of grant writing and reporting. When I realized I’d never put everything I learned about how to be successful generating grant funding into writing, I did this in 2020. It made it to the “top 10 countdown” this year. I think it’s one of my most useful articles; hope you agree.
8. 6 Keys to Rock Thank You Calls and Retain More Donors
This practical article has been in the top ten every year since I published it in 2016. I’m super happy about this, because calling folks to say thank you is one of the very best things you can do to retain and upgrade your donors. So keep up the good work!
7. R.I.P. Donor Pyramid?
The donor pyramid was a great model for linear thinkers like me. It was neat and orderly. Engage folks from the bottom up, level by level, one step at a time. It was stable. Or so we thought. Until research began revealing a preponderance of folks don’t fall into this model. The digital revolution served as its death knell. Today’s model is an energy vortex that focuses not just on the strength of the dollars given, but on the love and engagement freely offered. I am delighted this article continues to resonate with so many of you.
6. You Deserve to Rock Nonprofit Email Subject Lines!
The subject line is to your email as the envelope is to your direct mail letter. It’s what gets it opened! As email became more important over the past two years (due to stressed budgets and post office delays), writing on this topic seemed more important than ever. Apparently you all agreed.
5. What Do You Call a Development Staffer Who Facilitates Philanthropy?
I love this 2016 article so much I constantly reference it (which may account for its popularity). It goes to the heart of your raison d’être as a fundraiser (aka “philanthropy facilitator”). I think this is the best title for a person whose role is to take folks on a passionate philanthropy journey and facilitate a meaningful ending. When I began to think this way, my entire approach to my job changed (I was an in-the-trenches director of development for 30 years; this epiphany didn’t hit me until somewhere in the middle of my career). Before, I was ‘raising money.’ After, I was ‘creating meaningful experiences.’
4. 9 Secrets to Prepare for a Fundraising Job Interview
I wrote this pre-pandemic, yet it’s proved popular throughout the past 24 months. I hope it helped folks navigate through a time of uncertainty with grace and aplomb.
3. Top 10 Fundraising Appeal Writing Tips
I hope you’ll use these as an outline as you write your appeal. Or as a checklist if you’ve already completed one. You can use these tips for all fundraising appeal messaging, not just direct mail. So look also at email, social media, texts, newsletters and website campaign and donation landing page copy.
2. 6 Types of Modern Jargon to Avoid in Your Fundraising Appeal
The evergreen popularity of this 2014 article shouldn’t be surprising, given how many fundraising appeals cause my eyes to roll back in their sockets with boredom. Jargon is insidious, and the opposite of constituent-centered writing. Hopefully you’ll be able to avoid all the traps once you’ve read and studied this.
1. 7 Magic Words that Increase Charitable Donations
This is a compilation of two previous articles which appeared perennially on the top 10 list. This one was no exception, and rose to the very top of the list! It’s got some killer tips, borrowed from psychology research, to help you increase your donation rates by statistically significant amounts. I find this stuff endlessly fascinating, and I hope you do too.
These almost made the list, and enough people read them I thought I’d share.
What Causes so Many Fundraisers to Leave their Jobs?
Since “how to interview” was popular, it makes sense this article was as well. We have a terrible revolving door in fundraising, and it’s detrimental to people and the social benefit sector as a whole. Support, culture, and infrastructure are key culprits. Or, to be specific, the lack thereof. Nonprofit employees work hard. At the very least, they deserve respect and kindness. When fundraisers are beaten down until they are too tired and frustrated to see clearly, we knock all the heart and soul out of them. This is not good for people, or business.
These Fundraising Appeal Fallacies Will Cost You Money
I wrote this to help you gently approach a boss or board who has the wrong idea about how fundraising works. Apparently many of you found it useful. I’m so glad!
You Give Me Hope
In this time of pain, turmoil, and loss there has also been joy, creativity and love. You’ve risen to the challenges and found much to sustain us and bring meaning to peoples’ lives. Through your work you have brought healing and hope to those who rely on your mission, as well as passion and purpose to donors seeking to be of service.
Whether you embraced baking, piano, art, learning a new language, poetry, classics, yoga, nature walks, meditation, or any other revivifying pursuit to go on with as much optimism as possible, you did it! You made it through; you helped others make it through. Knowing you were there, continuing to do what you do best in the face of unprecedented obstacles, helped me make it through too.
Thanks so much for being a member of the Clairification community this year. Your support means a lot to me, as does the knowledge you are fighting the good fight – working to make our world a better, more caring and more just place.
I’ve been so fortunate this year to continue with my Covid Tree Walks and am sharing a few photos below. Even with the virus continuing to rage through our world, nature remains determined to show us life goes on. With bursts of awe-inspiring beauty, affirming life’s resilience.
If you’re not yet an enrolled Clairification School student, there’s never been a better time to join us! I’m hoping this year we’ll even get together for some more fortifying and comforting group conversations. And if you can use a little one-to-one coaching, I’d be delighted to be your sounding board and partner.
“There is but one solution to the intricate riddle of life; to improve ourselves, and contribute to the happiness of others.”
— Mary Shelley, “The Last Man,” written about a future hypothetical pandemic in response to Shelley’s own losses of children to raging infectious diseases.