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.

Truths, Not Fallacies

I was reminded of some of these truths in a post from Jeff Brooks. He spoke of true pearls of wisdom gleaned from his fundraising mentor, the pioneering direct mail writer Bob Screen. We’ve lost Bob and several fundraising giants in recent years, 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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Three San Francisco Heart: The Way to My Heart. Soft Light First Flight. North Beach Millefiori. Artist-created to benefit San Francisco General Hospital Foundation.

Loyalty is the New Nonprofit Donor Currency: Part 1

That’s right. Loyalty. Not wealth. Not money. Not even attention. Because merely grabbing the attention of someone with either capacity or inclination to give is no guarantee philanthropy will follow. Today I’d like to illuminate: Truths about what drives philanthropy, Challenges nonprofits have developing and implementing strategies that take these truths into account, and Suggestions…

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4 Keys to Raise Money in Today’s Attention-Sucking Nonprofit Jungle

Photo of 4 keys

Wondering where fundraising is heading in our highly networked, overly saturated, noisy-as-all-get-out post-digital revolution world? A world that’s really a jungle, with so much competition for attention — for-profits, other nonprofits, socially conscious businesses, political campaigns, friends, and family?

Your mantra can no longer simply be about “creating awareness.”

Alas, attention is increasingly ephemeral.

The new nonprofit currency is not creating attention. It’s building loyalty.

You simply can’t afford to keep losing 8 out of 10 new donors. Which means it’s time to reframe how you do fundraising. It can’t be primarily about going after money. It has to be about giving, and receiving, love. If you do it the right way, money will follow as a natural outgrowth. [I’m going to talk about this more in an article focusing on “connection” next week.]

Today, I want to explore 4 keys to raising money in our revolutionized technological zeitgeist.

Of course, sometimes it’s easier said than done.

Bad News/Good News:

The fundraising environment is altered. Mostly due to technology.

Lots and lots of technology.

AI fuels both predictive models and automation. Software enables multiple, simultaneous email campaigns. New tools allow easy sharing and engagement on social media. High quality photography and video can be made with the ease of a smart phone. Multiple new places regularly emerge to find and connect with potential constituents.  And on and on and on… If you feel you’re being hit almost daily with a firehose of new technologies, you’re not alone.

Technology has made it possible to do things never before imaginable.

But… possible and probable are not the same thing.

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Wanted sign

Fundraiser Job Tips: How to Hire/Get Hired + Top Interview Questions

Wanted signIn my last article I talked about how to pitch yourself for a new job. My focus was on fundraising jobs, but it’s a paradigm you can use for any time you’re trying to make a persuasive case for yourself.

Today I’d like to get to the part where you’ve transitioned from “selling” to the interviewer, and have arrived at the part where they sell to you.  In other words, it’s your turn!

It’s important to prepare for this part of the interview. And, if you happen to be wearing the interviewer hat, you can use these tips to listen for important questions that will tell you a lot about your potential hire.

The Purpose of Question Time

Definitely come prepared with what you want (and need) to know to make a wise, informed decision.  You’ll want to ask about this organization’s history, its programs, its culture (don’t overlook this one!), this position, and the person(s) for whom – and with whom — you’ll be working. Think about what success would look like for you, and probe to assure the pre-conditions to achieve that success are in place.

The interview is as much an opportunity for the candidate to get to know the hirer as it is a chance for them to get to know you. There’s little point in selling yourself for a job you ultimately don’t want and won’t enjoy. Where you’ll just be spinning your wheels. Where you won’t have a chance to grow professionally. Life is too short.

POINT OF PERSPECTIVE: I’ve interviewed a lot of candidates in my day. And, truth be told, if they don’t avail themselves of this opportunity to ask questions I really wonder about them. How can they be so lacking in curiosity? Did they not prepare for this conversation? How are they going to learn things on the job so they don’t just do things the right way, but do the right things? If it’s a front-facing fundraiser position, how are they going to be when faced with the opportunity to build a relationship with a donor?

When I’m in hiring mode, I don’t need a broadcaster as much as a relationship builder. I don’t need someone who boasts ad nauseum about themselves as much as need someone who probes for my interests, needs and challenges. So, if you’re the hirer, listen to see how many of these questions your candidates ask; be prepared to answer these questions.

Top 20 Interview Questions

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Time for Change sign

Borrow From Old MacDonald’s Farm to Interview for a Fundraising Job

Time for Change signDid you have a New Year’s resolution to look for a new development position? Or maybe to transition to work in the social benefit sector?

Have you put your job search off, wondering how your skills translate to what you’d really like to do?

We all have an inner critic telling us super unhelpful things like:

  • You’re not ready yet.
  • You need another course or degree.
  • You need more years of experience doing x, y, and/or z.
  • You need time to prepare.
  • You aren’t good at this (math/negotiating/technical/financial/digital/sales) stuff.
  • You aren’t as confident as other people.
  • You can’t take this leap; it’s too risky.

These are all variations on the theme of “you don’t have what it takes.”

Nonsense!

This is a totally irrational fear. Your inner critic is perhaps trying to protect and defend you, but actually this critic is holding you back by ruminating on the risks and worst-case scenarios. If you always play it “safe,” you’ll never grow.

Today, I’d like to tell you what it actually takes to be an effective fundraiser.

I hope you’ll see these innate qualities and strengths are things you have already. All you need to do is formulate them into a pitch format you can use when you interview for a job.

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Hands giving and receiving gift

Are the Rich Motivated to Give Differently?

Hands giving and receiving giftNot as much as you might think.

Yet people tell me all the time how much they’re afraid to ask wealthy people for major gifts. If you share those fears, it’s time for a little “Charity Clairity:”

Contrary to what your gut may be telling you, NOT asking is not making would-be donors feel good. Quite the opposite, in fact.

In this article, I’ll let you in on:

Three major donor truths. And I’ll cover why (1) you must stop short-changing your would-be major donors by not offering them opportunities to be the change they want to see in the world, and (2) you must stop robbing would-be major donors of chances to feel good about themselves.

Six major donor triggers. We’ll explore how you can make donors feel so good they’ll want to say “yes” — and passionately — to your solicitation.

Bottom line: When you don’t make donors feel good, they’ll go elsewhere.

The Rich Are Just Like You and Me 

F. Scott Fitzgerald is famously supposed to have told Ernest Hemingway “the rich are different than you and I.” “Yes, Scott,” Hemingway supposedly retorted. “They have more money.”

It’s good to remember major donors are, first and foremost, just people.

They may have more money, yet many of them actually don’t even feel “wealthy” (just as often so-called seniors don’t feel “old.”)  In fact, a survey of 4,000 investors by UBS found that 70% of people with investible assets of $1 million or more do NOT consider themselves “wealthy.”

What most donors share (no matter their net worth) is

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Wishing you a prosperous new year

How to Help Donors Give Astutely Before Year-End

Wishing you a prosperous new year

Do you want to risk not receiving generous gifts you could have otherwise received, just because you failed to go the extra mile to share relevant, useful and even critical information? Or because you just did the most basic things, failing to do what would have made your communications really stand out?

The Genuine Job of the Philanthropy Facilitator

Your job as a philanthropy facilitator is to do everything in your power to make giving to you as easy, joyful and rewarding as possible.

Everything.

Do you?

Doing everything means

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14 Last-Minute Strategies to Boost Year-End Fundraising

Painting of baby in fetal position

Arrgh! Too crowded! Too competitive! Too much noise! I’m curling into a fetal position until it’s over!

Do you have that year-end feeling? You know, the one many fundraisers get around this time of year?

Kind of frenetic? Anxious? Stressed?

You’re not alone.

The average nonprofit receives 26 – 30% of all donations in December. And 10% arrive in the last three days of the year!  So, yeah, it’s really busy.  And a lot is on the line.

I was talking with one of my clients, who apologized for acting so frantic and rushed.  She said:

“Do you remember having that feeling? Did you get it when you used to work in the trenches? That worry that maybe you won’t hit your numbers? That people won’t give as much as they gave last year? That some of your major donors won’t renew. That maybe you’re not sending enough emails? That you’ll wake up on January 1st and be in BIG trouble?”

Oh, yeah. That feeling…

Of course I’ve felt it!  But over the years I’ve learned a few tricks to help overcome that feeling.

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Food bank giving

The True Meaning of Giving Tuesday

Food bank givingThis year Giving Tuesday is November 28th. So, soon.

If you’ve not done so already, 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 (e.g., volunteering; in-kind donating; advocating, etc.).

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

Key: Approach GT Strategy with a Giving Spirit

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