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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Homeless man and donor on street

Why Smart Nonprofits Focus on Growing Monthly Giving

Homeless man and donor on streetFor at least the past five years I’ve been actively encouraging nonprofits of all stripes to begin or ramp up their monthly giving program. It made sense then. It makes even more sense now.

Why?

If there’s anything the past couple of years have taught us, you need a dependable source of income in order:

  • To be able to sustain programming for problems that never go away
  • To be able to weather current storms, anticipated and unanticipated, and
  • To be able to plan for the future.

It turns out there’s nothing as dependable as monthly donors.

In fact, donors who give to you recurrently sustain you so well a monthly giving strategy is often called a sustainer program.

Do you deserve a group of people who will sustain you through thick and thin?

Of course you do!

But you don’t always get what you deserve – unless you make it happen.

How to Make Monthly Giving Happen

As someone poetic so eloquently put it:

“Nothing will work unless you do.”

— Maya Angelou

There are four steps to a successful monthly giving work plan:

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How Often Should You Mail to Your Nonprofit Donors?

I decided to write this post due to the number of times nonprofits ask me “How often should we mail to our donors?” The corollary question is “How often can we ask people to give?”

The answer?

Well… if there was one quick answer I wouldn’t have needed to write a whole article. I’d just have given you a headline with a definitive response!

I know you want a definite answer.

And I could give you one. But it wouldn’t be the truth. Because the truth is different for every nonprofit. And the truth will even be different for your nonprofit at different points in your life cycle.

There are two definitive things I can tell you:

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7 Magic Words that Increase Charitable Donations

You’ve still got time to sprinkle a little magic into your year-end fundraising!

Consider each of these seven words a magic potion unto themselves.

  1. You
  2. Because
  3. Thanks
  4. Small
  5. Immediate
  6. Expert
  7. Support

The more of these words you use, the more powerful a spell your appeal will cast.

Each of these packs a bigger persuasive punch than you might imagine.

Let’s take a closer look at how this works.

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Heart with stick figure

Fundraising Appeal & Thank You Strategies Your Nonprofit Needs NOW

Heart with stick figureI know you’re working on calendar year-end fundraising right now.

And if you’re not, start immediately!

Per Mobile Cause:

  • 30% of annual donations occur in December
  • 12% of annual giving happens on the last three days of the calendar year
  • 53% of nonprofits start planning their year-end appeal in October

Before it’s too late, I want to share with you four almost magic strategies that have worked well for me for decades!

Yes, there are ways to tweak these strategies to conform to the current zeitgeist and recognize we live in a digitally revolutionized world. This can be super helpful, and I highly recommend you pay attention to the ways fundraising and nonprofit marketing are evolving. It means new skills are needed, more money must be invested to yield your most positive returns, and you’re no longer going to be able to rest on your laurels.

That being said, I don’t want you to get so caught up in bells and whistles you neglect the fundamentals. Nor do I want you to throw up your hands in despair, culminating in a decision that you just can’t compete or do a better job because… (fill in the blank).

No excuses!

The magic strategies below have worked for me, and countless nonprofits, over generations. They’ll work for you too.

Truly, I promise if you do these things you’ll raise more money this year.

Ready to get started?

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Finger pointing

Is Your Finger on the Nonprofit Appeal Trigger?

Finger pointingWhatever side of the political spectrum you’re on, the photo below is triggering.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-58654351

Note: I can’t show you the photo because it’s copyrighted, but if you click on the link you’ll recognize it immediately (unless you’ve been living underground over the past week).

Why am I sharing this photo I can’t even show you?

I want to make an important point.

One I feel too few nonprofits give much thought to.

Could you be among them?

If so, I don’t fault you. No one teaches us these things.

Most of us didn’t go to journalism school.

But, let’s face it, journalists really do know how to grab attention!

You want to grab attention with this year’s fundraising appeal, right?

Okay then.

I’m going to share a simple tip that will boost your fundraising returns this year by leaps and bounds.

Again, it’s super simple.

But you’ve got to start now. Or maybe even yesterday.

Are you ready?

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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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text messaging women

How to Rock Nonprofit Text Messaging Appeals

text messaging womenText messaging is becoming an increasingly important fundraising tool. Why? One of the reasons is U.S. adults now spend 10.5 hours/day consuming media.  With all the competition for your donors’ attention, there’s a need to cut through the clutter.

Texting can do that! In fact, it offers a wonderful way to strengthen and build authentic relationships with your donors because it’s so intimate and immediate. Done well, it can create a potent way for people to connect with your cause.

The key is to choose the texting tools that will work best for you, given your resources and constituency, and to wield those tools with wisdom and responsibility. While I’m not recommending any particular products, much of what I’m reporting in this article I’ve learned from experts at Rally Corp and Qgiv. You can find additional platforms here; there are others as well.

Why text messaging is so powerful for fundraising

  • Over 90% of Americans own a smartphone. And they look at it at least 80 times/day, on average.
  • 98% of texts are read within the first five minutes – which is way better than the 20 – 30% open rates for emails.
  • 39% of people have more than 100 unread emails in their inbox, with 20% saying they have over 1,000
  • 10 – 15 minutes is the average adult attention span; short term it can be as short as 8 seconds.
  • 90% of texts get opened and read.
  • 45% of people reply to branded text message blasts; 5%x the average reply rate of emails. The most immediate information – where folks go if they really want to reach us – is found on smart phones.
  • Almost 40% of Americans use cell phones to pay at least one bill. So your constituents are already accustomed to processing financial transactions via mobile.
  • Studies suggest text messages generate average gifts of $112 per Rally Corp. Even major gifts are given this way today.
  • Adding a text to donate as a giving option resulted in a 32% increase in giving over a 12-month period per a study by PushPay.
  • A study by Qgiv learned 10% of donors, overall, prefer to give by phone. And it’s a higher percentage for certain demographics. While not as attractive to Boomers (who still represent the majority of giving), it’s true for more than 30% of GenX and Millennials.

Different styles of text fundraising

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Control Soup. Caution Soup. Street art.

These Fundraising Appeal Fallacies Will Cost You Money

Control Soup. Caution Soup. Street art.Ever have a well-meaning, yet perhaps overly controlling or risk-aversive, boss say to you:

  • Our fundraising letter must be no longer than one page.

  • That’s too simple; we don’t want to talk down to our donors.

  • We need to say more about our accomplishments.

  • We need to describe numbers of people served; that’s what’s impressive.

  • That’s not how I talk.

  • That’s not our corporate style.

  • That’s not how we do things.

  • That’s not what our donors are used to.

  • That’s not proper grammar.

  • That’s too gushy and effusive.

  • I want happy, not sad, photos.

  • Asking the reader to “please give generously” is sufficient; no need to name an amount.

  • Asking once is enough.

  • The development director should sign the letter.

  • Signatures from both the E.D. and board president will be more persuasive.

  • We don’t need a P.S.

Alas, these are common fundraising appeal fallacies that will cost you money. Money donors might have given to you, if you’d only understood some fundamental fundraising truths.

I was reminded of some of these truths today in a post from Jeff Brooks. He spoke of true pearls of wisdom gleaned from his fundraising mentor, the recently deceased pioneering direct mail writer Bob Screen. We’ve lost several fundraising giants this year, including Simone Joyaux and John Haydon, but we should never lose sight of the wisdom they imparted. It’s the best way to assure their memories live on and their good works continue.

I did not know Bob, but I’m sure I learned from him without realizing it.  Because the good stuff gets passed around. Why?  Because it works.

And it takes someone with experience to not just demonstrate it works, but to forcefully maintain the necessity of adhering to tested principles, facts and truth.  Even – especially – in the face of doubters (e.g. executive directors; board presidents) who would seriously derail your fundraising efforts. With all good intention, of course.

YOU are the fundraiser.

Never forget this is why you were hired. No one is an expert at everything. And chances are fundraising writing is not your leadership’s key area of proficiency. It’s your job to know what works, and what doesn’t.

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"Conscious Soup" street art

Stop Writing Unconscious: Secrets to Inspire Action on Your Nonprofit Appeal

"Conscious Soup" street artYou want to raise money with your fundraising appeal, right?

Guess what?

However you feel when you sit down to write is how your readers will feel when they sit down to read.

Feeling anxious? Unprepared? Bored?

Your feelings come through in your writing. Or not.

So… first put a smile on your face! Think about what inspires you about your mission. What are you passionate about? What drew you here and keeps you here?

Passion is contagious.

You can do this – it’s just like talking to a friend about how important your cause is.

Yup.  Your donor is your friend.

Talk to them exactly that way.

Becoming a writer is about being conscious.

“When you’re conscious and writing from a place of insight and simplicity and real caring about the truth, you have the ability to throw the lights on for your reader.” 

– Ann Lamott

7 Key Secrets + 16 Blooming Tips to Appeal Success

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