A heartfelt story to tell

5 Guaranteed Ways to Raise Money Through Storytelling

A heartfelt story to tell

Want content that raises money? Tell more stories.

Storytelling today is ‘hot.’

And why not?  It’s the fundamental human activity – we even talk to ourselves!

We tell ourselves stories all the time to inspire, goad, cheerlead and persuade.

“I’ve been knocked down, but I’ll pick myself up.”

“This cake will be even better than my mother-in-law’s.”

“The deck seems stacked against me, but I’m going to fight; I’m going to win.”

“Tomorrow will be a better day.”

Storytelling is something people naturally gravitate to. We’re wired that way.

Stories connect the dots.

They are the connective tissue that turns otherwise random acts into important sequences.

  • Stories invite us in.
  • When we add our own imagination, stories begin to acquire personal relevance.

Does this sound like something that might be useful for your content marketing strategy?

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Labyrinthine Heart, 2023 benefit for S.F. General Foundation

6 Top Reasons To Use Handwriting

Do you write anymore?

I don’t mean do you type.

I’m talking about good old-fashioned handwriting.

You know, that very human practice most of the world seems to have abandoned post digital revolution?

It may seem practical and smart. After all, using a keyboard is definitely quicker.

But something critical gets lost in translation.

Emotional Connection

Not just to your audience, but to yourself.

Could keyboarding be causing you to disconnect? To lose your passion?

This is why writers including  J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, Danielle Steele, John Updike and Joyce Carol Oates have rejected word processors and computers in favor of writing by hand. At least for their first drafts.

CAVEAT: Don’t fall into the trap of thinking these “handwriting people” are all just “old,” “old school,” or “stuck in their ways.”  Rather, they intuitively discovered things about hand writing. All subsequently borne out by neuroscience. Once upon a time I intuited this as well. I couldn’t imagine giving up my yellow writing pad and pens of various colors.  How would I think expressively if forced to type everything? Gradually, I was persuaded (shamed?) to jump on the bandwagon of modernity and efficiency. And, lo and behold, it was incredibly efficient. So fast!  I got used to editing as I went along. Pretty soon I couldn’t envision ever going back. BUT…

But… after many years on the wrong track, I’m coming to understand the documented benefits of composing by hand.

Writing By Hand Offers Psychological Benefits

You can learn more about some of these benefits from specific studies here (improves memory and promotes deep encoding); here (bolsters learning), and here (advances idea generation), to name just a few.

Today I want to share six of these benefits I think you’ll find most relevant to your nonprofit work.

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Person holding AI post-it note

Should Your Nonprofit Jump on the Artificial Intelligence Bandwagon?

Person holding AI post-it noteI confess I know virtually zip about artificial intelligence.

But I’ve been learning. Fast.

Because it’s hard these days to travel anywhere in the world, including the social benefit sector, without hearing enticing things about it.

  • How it can do all sorts of things faster and better than humans.
  • How it can create cost savings.
  • How it enables greater personalization.
  • How it leverages effective use of data for marketing and fundraising purposes.
  • How it tracks engagement and predicts future behaviors.
  • How it creates efficiencies for program purposes.

At first blush this sounds good. But… the devil is in the details, right?

Which is why people are equally thrilled or unnerved at the prospect.

I wondered if using it could create unintended consequences. New tools used as blunt instruments could cause unintentional harm. So, I thought I’d do a little research to know whether I should advise fundraisers to jump on the AI bandwagon.

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Rocket launch, NASA

Do You Have the Write Stuff? Top 5 Nonprofit Attention-Grabbers.

Rocket launch, NASA

Take your writing into the stratosphere!

 

Want your writing to take off more this year?

Ann Wylie, editor, author, interviewer, teacher and more, is one of the folks I look to for writing tips. And recently she offered 8 tips I believe all nonprofits should take to heart. At least if you want to be persuasive and drive people to take the actions you desire.

You DO, right?

Okay, good.

Allow me to share my favorite of Ann’s tips, together with my own thoughts on how they pertain – in spades – to nonprofits.

Some of these I write about a lot. They’re that important and, IMHO, rather obvious.

  1. Stop writing about “us and our stuff.”
  2. Hit return more often.
  3. Don’t stop at the subject line.

Still, it pays to keep these tips top of mind. Because sometimes the obvious stuff can be the easiest to miss, unless we focus our attention (a bit like remembering to smell the coffee, thereby more fully enjoying the experience).

Other tips I’ve thought about less, though I realize I do employ them a lot.

  1. Make it a metaphor.
  2. Steal a tip from the New York Times.

I share them with you to bring them into your conscious writing toolbox.

Top 5 Nonprofit Writing Tips

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How Jargon Destroys Nonprofit Fundraising & Marketing

I hate jargon. With a passion.

Hate it. Hate it. Hate it.

Just. Can’t. Stand. It!

Yes, I guess you could call it a pet peeve.

But, really, why would you ever use jargon if you wanted to truly communicate with someone?

Just check out the definition:

“language used by a particular group of people, especially in their work, and which most other people do not understand”

— Cambridge dictionary.

Jargon = Failure to Communicate

When you talk to people in words they don’t understand, really, what’s the point?

Are you just trying to make yourself look smart?

Because, trust me, that’s not how it comes across.

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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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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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