Fundraising Do’s and Don’ts: Email Sharing Strategic Plan

FR_Do's_and_Don'tsI’m continuing with my new, occasional feature of “Do’s vs. Don’ts.” Whenever something arrives in my mailbox that seems a good ‘teaching opportunity,’ my plan is to share it with you. Please let me know if you find it useful!

Today’s example is an email that includes a link to download this organization’s new strategic plan.

I’m a past donor, so I’m assuming that’s why I received it.

Do you think it’s a “Do” or a “Don’t?”

What’s wrong or right with the subject line?

The email arrived with the headline: “Claire, we have big, exciting news to share with you!”

The preview pane continued: “Announcing Opportunity Fund’s bold 5-year strategic plan and a new key partnership…”

  1. Would you open that email?

  2. If yes, why?

  3. If no, why?

I’ll tell you my own thoughts in a moment.  But first…

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Impatience is Virtue: Key to Sustain Nonprofit Relevancy and Fundraising Effectiveness

The late Jerold Panas*, fundraising guru and author of a bunch of books (two of which, Asking and The Fundraising Habits of Supremely Successful Boards, I frequently use with boards to inspire philanthropy), left us with a gem of a final article published on the Guidestar blog: Nurturing Your Potential as a Fundraiser.

It got me thinking.

All of the traits Panas lists (he calls them “verities” that distinguish consummate fundraisers from those who, I presume, just dial it in) are important. I encourage you to read the full list (or even the full book from which they’re excerpted: Born to Raise: What Makes a Great Fundraiser Great).

Today I want to focus on one trait that particularly struck me.

Impatience.

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3 Ways to Remove Psychological Barriers to Philanthropic Giving

If you can remember this acronym, you’ll be able to persuade more donors to join you and stick with you. This is deceptively simple stuff.

And it really, truly works!

Give me a ‘D’ for DOUBTS!

Give me a ‘U’ for UNIQUENESS!

Give me an ‘E’ for EXPECTATIONS!

What’s that spell?

That spells what you must overcome to win over donors!

What’s that spell?

That spells what you owe your donors!

What’s that spell?

That spells what you must meet to show you’re worthy!

Ready to ‘D.U.E.’ it?

Let’s get started!

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Don’t Worry, Be Happy: Useful Life Advice for Nonprofit Fundraisers

I happened recently on an article in the New York Times where the author, David Pogue, asked readers for their very best ‘life advice.’ I enjoyed it so much, I want to share some of my favorite pieces of wisdom with you.  And, of course, I’ll suggest how this might apply to your nonprofit work and work/life balance.

Let’s begin!

Are you over-worrying about a cat stuck in a tree?

cat in treeNot every problem needs to be addressed immediately. Some will work themselves out.

You’ve never seen a cat skeleton in a tree, have you?” When Alexandra Aulisi’s cat couldn’t get down from a tree, her grandmother reassured her with those words, predicting (correctly) that the cat would come down on his own. “This advice made me realize that, sometimes, you need to shift your perception of a problem to see a solution,” Ms. Aulisi noted.

David Pogue, NYT

While it’s tempting to drop everything (e.g., whenever a new email appears in your inbox, especially if it’s someone asking for help), it’s important to assess if this situation actually requires a rapid response. If not, you have options.

ADVICE/OPTIONS:

1. Lil’ Bo Peep: “Leave it alone and it will come home.”

Ever been on vacation and noticed a flurry of emails, back and forth, forth and back, from members on your team?  Often by the time you’ve returned the ‘problem’ – as urgent as it may have seemed at the time based on all the email hyperbole – seems to have evaporated. I’m not suggesting you ignore legitimate, pressing problems; just use common sense and exercise judicious restraint, as appropriate.

2. Could someone else handle this?

I’ll never forget some excellent advice I received (actually from one of the donors I worked with during the years I was a young parent).  While I was stressing about potty training, she told me: “Have you ever seen anyone at college who still wears diapers?  If you don’t potty train your son now, never fear.  His college girlfriend will!”  It was silly, yet made a whole lot of sense. I didn’t need to oversee and micro-manage every little thing. Sometimes things happen on their own time frame. This was a reminder that patience can be a virtue.

Are you having trouble getting started?

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Your Nonprofit Appeal Response Device, Like Cheese, Stands Alone

Farmer_in_the_DellRemember the children’s ditty The Farmer in the Dell?

At the end, when all is said and done, what happens to the cheese?

It STANDS ALONE.

Your fundraising appeal response device, whether a reply card or donation landing page, is very much like this proverbial cheese.

In fact, it may be the most important element of your fundraising package.

Do you treat it with respect?

Or do you focus the lion’s share of your time on crafting, reworking and editing your appeal copy?  Then thinking about your letter and package design? And then waiting until the very last minute to think about your response device, treating it like a nuisance or unimportant chore?

Way too often I see folks spend endless hours crafting their appeal, only to fly by the seat of their pants when it comes to the response devise. This is a huge mistake.

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The Giant Mid-Level Fundraising Opportunity Your Nonprofit’s Missing

Nonprofits pay a lot of attention to donor acquisition. Then?

They largely ignore these donors, unless…

They become worthy of attention by virtue of being ‘major’ donors. Then?

Nonprofits pay a lot of attention to major donor relationship building.

But between new donor acquisition and major donor cultivation, solicitation and stewardship, what happens?

Usually not enough.

This is a BIG missed opportunity.

You’ve likely got great donor prospects hiding inside your own donor base, and you’re essentially treating them like, well, poop.

What if you were to begin to look at your mid-level donors as the transformational fundraising opportunity they are?

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To Be or Not to Be: What Goes in This Year’s Nonprofit Work Plan?

I’m wagering you’re too busy.

That means you’ve little space for adding new projects to your work plan for the coming year.

Never fear. Help is here!

First, let’s clear out some space.  

I’ve participated in many a planning session, and seldom do I recall – if ever – really focusing first on what we could stop doing to make room for new endeavors.  If this sounds familiar, you’re likely also familiar with the unfortunate consequences.

There are some things that really should not be part of your work plan moving forward. Or, at the very least, they should be pared down. Quite. A. Bit.

Here’s how you know you need, as Marie Kondo might say, to tidy up.

  • Do you try to stuff too much into your work plan and end up doing nothing as well as you’d like?
  • Do you allow daily clutter to crowd your inbox so you’re often responding to the little issues rather than the big ones?
  • Do you keep working on things that no longer have the payoff they once had, causing you to miss out on newer and more cost-effective opportunities?
  • Do you allow inertia to divert your focus towards ‘make work’ transactional stuff that satisfies your need to feel ‘busy,’ while you know it’s not really transformational work?
  • Have you allowed your job to become overloaded with tasks you don’t enjoy, to the point where you feel a bit like a lobster in a pot?

What if you were to look at your work plan this year from the KonMari perspective?

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NEW Feature: Fundraising Do’s and Don’ts — Spring Email Appeal

I’m offering a new feature of “Do’s vs. Don’ts.” I’ll run it occasionally, as ‘teaching opportunities’ arise. Please let me know if you find it useful!

Okay, let’s begin with today’s timely spring email example.  Do you think it’s a “Do” or a “Don’t?”

What’s wrong/right with this picture? **

EmailNO_StVincentDePaulSF

I’ll tell you my own thoughts in a moment.  But first…

Think it through yourself because you’ll likely get more out of this if you do.

Seriously, I mean it.  We learn best by doing.

Take five minutes and jot down your answers to the following questions on a piece of paper or your screen.

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How to Choose the Most Effective Fundraising ‘Ask’ Words

Words matter.

You know this when it comes to your personal life (surely you can hear your Mama’s voice in your ear). You certainly know this when it comes to political correctness (surely you know the words to avoid, at all costs). You even know this when it comes to your professional life (surely you take pains to avoid certain acronyms and jargon).

Well… guess what?

Words matter when it comes to fundraising too!

When asking people for a charitable gift, choose your words with care.

Which Fundraising Ask Word Works Best?

Here are some common ‘ask’ words:

  • Give
  • Donate
  • Contribute
  • Provide
  • Invest
  • Pitch in
  • Chip in
  • Participate
  • Join
  • Bestow
  • Bequeath
  • Leave a legacy

I have strong favorites, as you may be able to infer from the words I’ve boldfaced.

Let me tell you why.

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