When you open the door, the future looks brighter

When Opportunity Knocks, Open the Door: Donor Acquisition

No nonprofit can afford to be an island.

As tempting as it may be to stay in your comfort zone, wearing blinders that enable you to forge straight ahead without noticing what’s going on around you, this is a dangerous practice.

Because sometimes the landscape changes dramatically.  And when it does, your nonprofit could get left behind. Unless you’re paying close attention.

This has been happening a lot over the past six years or so, as news and social media has been filling our brains, stoking our fears and tugging at our heartstrings as if from a firehose. People who care, when they see devastation and misery, want to help.

This happens, for instance, when emergencies arise. Earthquakes. Hurricanes. Floods. Fires. Drought. War. Over the course of my four decades in fundraising, there have been years I’ve had donors tell me “This year we’re giving all our extra resources to respond to… Hurricane Katrina… Haiti relief… the Fukushima disaster… the refugee crisis… anti-hate organizations…  .” The list goes on an on.

In the face of such natural human impulses, what can you do?

When things outside your nonprofit’s doors portend impact for your ability to fulfill your mission, you need to be prepared.

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How to Make Donors Happy to Say YES to Your Fundraising Appeal

Super hero kidsToday I’m going to tell you how to create a fundraising appeal that’s all about your donor’s happiness.

Because if you can persuade your donor that saying “yes” will make them happy, then you both win.

Don’t you want to make your donor feel like a winner?

Don’t you want to be a winner?

Everybody wants to be a winner!

Sadly, most nonprofits write appeals that don’t create a win/win.

They write self-congratulatory letters that talk about how wonderful they are, and what wonderful outcomes they make possible.

They forget about the donor.

They don’t think about donor joy.

How can I be so certain this is the case?

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Proven Strategies to Climb the Year-End Fundraising Mountain

Mountain climberHave you started working on your annual appeal and year-end fundraising plan?

It’s time!

I worked for 30 years in the trenches, so I know exactly what this time of year feels like.

It feels like you’re at the base of a mountain you’re about to scale.

  • Exciting, but also scary.
  • Exhilarating, yet also daunting.
  • There will be good days, and bad days.

And this particular year, you may feel you’re taking two steps forward and three steps back.

That’s to be expected during times of great uncertainty.

Expected or not, I know you’re still anxious and thinking “What if we don’t reach the top?”

Don’t worry, I’m here to help.

This year you may need the equivalent of a few extra granola bars for energy. And maybe an extra tool or two to help you get a grip.

Right now I want to give you a few specific, timely tips you might not be thinking about.

Here are some strategies I hope will give you a leg up, so to speak.

Ready to Put Your Best Foot Forwards?

Here are 11 tips I’ve learned over the years.

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Food bank giving

The True Meaning of Giving Tuesday

Food bank givingThis year Giving Tuesday is November 29th. So, soon.

Now is a good time to think about whether or not you want to jump on the bandwagon and, if so, how. There is more than one way to slice this particular piece of pie. And, really, that’s what Giving Tuesday is – just one piece of your total annual fundraising strategy.

You don’t want to blow it out of proportion. But you probably don’t want to ignore it. Rather, plan ahead to put it into a context where it will complement your other year-end communications and fundraising strategies.

Let’s take a closer look.

What is Giving Tuesday?

I confess I’ve been a bit of an apologist for the “holiday.” I like to turn the tables by actually giving to donors, rather than asking them to give yet one more time during this busiest fundraising time of the year.

Plus, I often say if you want gifts, you must give them. What better time to do so than on giving Tuesday?

Of course, asking can also be a form of giving. So, I love appeals on this date that give people the option of giving money or supporting you in other ways.

It’s all philanthropy (aka “love of humanity”).

Key: Approach GT Strategy with a Giving Spirit

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24,000 Children Die from Hunger Daily

Scope: The Key to Donor Generosity?

There’s a powerful psychological principle known as the “identifiable victim effect.”

It has to do with how you describe the scope of the problem you’re asking donors to help address. And what they will do as a result of how they perceive this scope.

  • Is it a scope they can visualize and relate to?
  • Or is the number so large it’s difficult for them to wrap their brains around it?

There’s another related psychological principle known as “scope insensitivity.”

It applies when a number is too large for people to really comprehend its meaning. If you tell me something costs $1 billion, I really have little idea how this might differ from $10 million. Both numbers are equally overwhelming.  I can’t picture how high a pile of either would be in dollar bills or even $100 bills. I have no sensitivity as to the scope because I simple can’t sense it.

Fundraisers absolutely need to know about, and apply, these principles.

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Making an application list

8-Step Annual Fundraising Appeal Self-Test – Part 2

Making an application listFundamentals are important!  Before writing your appeal, it’s good to remind yourself of the basics to make sure you’ve got all bases covered. Look at the elements you want to include; make sure you’re applying them. In this two-part series, I’m calling out eight appeal writing fundamentals. In Part 1 we looked at the first four:

    1. You
    2. Easy
    3. Welcome
    4. Heart-awakening

Today we continue with four more.

    1. Best Self
    2. Uplift
    3. Unconditional Love
    4. Urgency

Let’s get started!

5. BEST SELF

What if part of the reason our sector has so little understanding of our supporters is because we think we’ve done the work of understanding by slapping the activist, volunteer, donor (insert other generic label here) on people?

Kevin Shulman, Founder, DonorVoice

Donors have their own sense of identity; they’re people first. Trying to categorize them neatly into donor “personas” (e.g., “Wanda Widow,” “Busby Business Man,” “Suzy Soccer Mom,)” doesn’t work nearly as well as helping them express their best self or selves.

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Hand writing checklist

8-Step Annual Fundraising Appeal Self-Test – Part 1

Hand writing checklistI never begin writing a fundraising appeal without beginning with a template and checklist. It’s always good to remind yourself of the fundamentals.

1. YOU

“The most beautiful thing in the world is you.”

— Alvin Ailey, choreographer and dancer, (1931-1989)

This gets to who you’re writing to. Not to yourself, program staff. or board of directors. You’re writing to ONE donor. It’s about their ego, not yours. Their needs, not yours.

Take a good hard look at your letter. How often do you use “I,” “my,” “our,” “we,” or the name of your organization vs. “you” and “your?”

Fix this! Here’s a “you test” you can use from Bloomerang.

Here’s a “don’t” example:

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Write something at the typewriter

Brilliant Writing Tips to Boost Your Nonprofit Fundraising Appeal

Write something at the typewriterFundraising copywriter extraordinaire, Lisa Sargent, recently shared a brilliant piece of writing on the Moceanic blog.  Appropriately, the subject matter – “6 Winning Ways to Start Your Next Fundraising Appeal” — was all about brilliant writing. Specifically, fundraising appeal writing. I commend the full article to you, as she fills it with juicy, specific examples.  But if you’re short on time, here are the key take-aways – plus some of my own thoughts and examples — to get your reader well “into” your appeal – right from the get go!

Next time you’re staring at a blank piece of paper, try BEGINNING with:

The first line’s job: Get the reader to the second line. Otherwise, all your carefully crafted prose is for naught. The first line ideas below are tested and true; you can’t go wrong with any of them. Just switch them up so that not every one of your appeals starts the same way. Why? Because (1) not every style is your best bet for every situation, and (2) not all your readers are alike. Some prefer whodunnit mysteries, others prefer coming of age tales, and others historical fiction. Still, everyone will respond to a good story.

Everyone.

An appeal without a story is a true crime. As business and thought leader Jim Collins taught us:

“We are known by the stories we can tell.”

So, before putting pen to paper, think about a story you can tell. Only then should you begin.

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PHoto telling a story

Nonprofit Fundraising Truth: Stories are Persuasive, Data is Just Proof

PHoto telling a storyDoes proving your point persuade your nonprofit donor?

It turns out not so much.

At least, not unless your donor is already pretty much won over.

Proof, absent persuasion, won’t get you far.

In my last article, “How to Project Manage Your Nonprofit Story,” I delved into the concept of story vs. data in creating compelling nonprofit marketing and fundraising copy. Stories almost always win out, because human beings are wired for stories. To want to enter into them. To want to become a part of them. To want to see ourselves, in some way, expressively reflected in the characters, plot and struggle.

In this way we are emotionally moved. We shed a tear… get a lump in our throats… find ourselves chuckling, smiling or even beaming with a flicker, or a flame, of recognition, appreciation or gratitude. We are taken out of our everyday lives, and moved someplace else where we’re offered a new perspective. From this perspective, we can choose to act. To become part of the story, in a positive way. To make a difference. To bring joy to sadness… hope to despair… healing to hurt. To bring the happy ending we wish to see.

Today I want to delve a bit deeper into why stories beat data because, when I review nonprofit appeals, the lion’s share do a poor job of making the story the star. Sure, you may be raising money with your appeal. But I’ll bet dollars to donuts you could raise a lot more by channeling the persuasive power of a compelling narrative.

Stories are persuasive, having the power to change audience beliefs and actions.

If you’re familiar with Robert Cialdini, you’ll know about the six key principles of influence and persuasion that help people to act in the face of uncertainty. And we’re all in that state of uncertainty when we receive a fundraising appeal, right? If you look closely, you’ll see these principles are story-based:

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License Plate: NOT GR8

Why are You Cutting Down Trees and Asking Me to Pay For It? 5 Cardinal Sins for Fundraising Renewal Appeals (aka, making a poor 2nd impression)

License Plate: NOT GR8I’ve taken to including a series of “DO’s” and “DON’Ts” for all sorts of fundraising and nonprofit marketing messages over the past several years.  My purpose is not to shame anyone, but simply to provide educational moments offering example-based food for thought as you craft your own appeals, thank you’s, reports and more.

Here’s an old, brief post of mine written before I started the “Do’s and Don’ts” feature. I happened upon it while searching for something else, and it gave me pause. It’s simple, to-the-point and, alas, still relevant.  Because I see these kinds of mistakes still being made. All. The. Time.

So, I thought I’d update a bit and re-share.

Why Do Fundraisers Who Should Know Better Keep Committing These Sins?

Maybe it’s because of the “monkey see, monkey do” nature of human beings. We see someone else do something and assume it’s good practice. Especially when they’re bigger than us and/or well regarded.

This ‘oldie but goodie’ I’m about to share followed on another post about the importance of making a good first impression with potential donors. With a renewal appeal, if you want to keep these folks, it’s equally important to make a good second impression.

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