Book cover - Anatomy of a Fundraising Appeal Letter

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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Ask sign

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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9 relatable reasons

9 Strategies to Make Your Nonprofit Fundraising Appeal Relatable

9 relatable reasonsThe inimitable Seth Godin recently posted some wisdom I want to share, because it applies directly to how you must ‘sell’ your nonprofit if you hope to inspire folks to join with you to solve the problems you address.

As is always the case with Godin, it is succinct. It’s also both common-sense and deeply insightful — critically so — when you take a moment to dig in a little. It relates to one of the most critical elements of any fundraising appeal:

The problem.

You see, folks won’t give to you simply because you exist.  Or because you’re nonprofit. Or because you’re ‘do-gooders.’

They won’t even give to you because you claim you’re addressing important issues or resolving a significant problem.

It takes more than that to capture people’s imaginations and inspire philanthropy.

The problem has to be vital, and the solving of it relevant, to them.

There are at least nine different ways in which a problem will capture a donor’s attention.

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Meeting over coffee

BIG Tips to Raise BIG Money for Your BIG Mission

If I had to tell you what you need to do to succeed with major gift fundraising in one sentence it would be this:

Identify major donor prospects… qualify them so you know they want to build a deeper relationship with you… cultivate them… visit with them… listen to them… reflect back to them what you heard… ask them for something specific that resonates with their passions… steward their gift and communicate in an ongoing way to make them feel like the hero they are!

Whew – that was a mouthful!

A shorter way to say this is: Meet with donors. Listen to donors. Ask donors.

See — it’s simple!

It’s definitely not rocket science. It’s just good old hard work. Satisfying and rewarding work. And it’s a type of work anyone can learn to do. [If you want to learn, please sign up for the next Certification Course for Major Gifts Fundraisers e-course . It may be the most important investment you make all year. Just one major gift will more than cover the cost].

Over my 37 years in fundraising, 30 of them working in the trenches as a director of development for organizations with budgets ranging from $1 – $40 million, I have asked for a lot of major gifts.  I know what works, and what doesn’t work. Today I want to give you:

(1) some of my best words of wisdom, and also

(2) answers to some of the questions folks frequently ask me .

I hope these tips will help you tweak your mindset and invigorate your systems so you can be more successful fundraising in the coming year!

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roaring lion

Unless You Do These 7 Things, Your Major Gifts Program Won’t Succeed

Every nonprofit should have a major gifts program.

That’s where the lion’s share of the money is.

It’s a rare organization that has a mailing list large enough to raise a million dollars from a million different $1 donors. But most nonprofits do have major donor prospects hiding in plain sight.

It’s up to you to find them; then move them along a cultivation path that prepares them – and you – to make an ask that results in a win/win values-based exchange.

Let’s review 7 secrets that will guarantee your major gifts program is a success, whatever your size.

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3 Nonprofit Secrets to Rock Major Gift Fundraising

There’s a treasure trove of knowledge and research around major gift fundraising. What works well.  What doesn’t work at all.  What’s, at best, half-baked.

It’s not rocket science.  But there’s definitely art, and some science, involved.

The gestalt way of thinking about the three secrets boils down to simply being:

(1) smart,

(2) systematic and

(3) passionate.

But, I’m pretty pragmatic. So I’d like to give you something more practical.

If I had to pick the top three practical secrets to success, they would be the following:

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Stuffed animal with heart of light

Shared Cure-Alls: Philanthropy and Placebo Effect

Stuffed animal with heart of lightCan the act of philanthropy make people feel better?

I say “Yes. Absolutely.” Much has been written about the warm glow that comes from giving.

So why not think about fundraising as a caring act, and fundraisers (aka ‘philanthropy facilitators’) as trusted helpers and healers?

Reframing fundraising in this way can be your key to:

(1) committing to major individual donor fundraising (helping people to be the people they’d like to see in the mirror), and

(2) engaging more staff, volunteers and board members in this noble endeavor (so they experience not just the joy of giving, but the joy of helping others give).

It helps to understand the similarities in findings from functional MRI research on both the placebo and philanthropy effects.

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Magician performing

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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2 different frames

Framing Year-End Philanthropy: Behavioral Science Tweak

Are you framing your ask as an “annual appeal” or as “we only ask once a year?”

A growing body of research in psychology and behavioral economics shows how you frame your ask can have a big difference in your fundraising results.

Much of this has to do with how people mentally account for all consumer ‘purchases,’ including charitable giving.

Researchers have found people don’t treat all of their money (or time, effort or other resources) as if they have one big pool of it. Rather, they have separate mental accounts. When they spend resources they keep track of that expenditure based on the mental account it came from.

This has significant fundraising implications, so it’s important to delve further into this mental accounting principle.

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