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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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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6 Strategies to Convey Your Most Emotional Fundraising Appeal Story

2020-10-11 14.40.58People are wired for stories.

We use them to understand our world.

But do the same stories work in any time? For any person? No.

You need to understand your SMIT story – ‘Single Most Important Thing’ – at this moment in time.

And that SMIT will change, depending on the environment in which you’re operating.

You need to know your audience. Today. The story you told last year may not work as well this year.

  • The story must be relevant to the donor – which will depend on what is top of mind for them.
  • And the need to give the story a happy ending must feel urgent.

Relevancy and urgency are the key to emotional appeals.

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Even Nonprofits Get the Blues

2020-06-07 15.39.42Times are tough. It’s easy to get demoralized. Especially if you work for a business, nonprofit or otherwise, that doesn’t feel ‘essential’ in today’s environment.

It’s human to feel depressed.

A survey conducted in June by the Kaiser Family Foundation found more than 30% of adults in the United States were reporting symptoms consistent with anxiety or depression since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Even our former First Lady revealed in a recent podcast:

“There have been periods throughout this quarantine where I just have felt too low… I have to say, that waking up to the news, waking up to how this administration has or has not responded, waking up to yet another story of a Black man or a Black person somehow being dehumanized or hurt or killed, or falsely accused of something, it is exhausting. It has led to a weight that I haven’t felt in my life — in, in a while.”

Michelle Obama

I know it’s difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel sometimes.  And waiting for time to pass sucks.

Yet my Mom always said, “This too shall pass.”

I found it comforting.

It was like she was sharing some universal truth by telling me time-specific depression need not turn to despair.

There’s another path.

Mrs. Obama said she had benefited from keeping a routine, including exercise, getting fresh air and having a regular dinner time. I’ve found these things useful as well. Most important, I’m learning to focus more on what I can control than what I can’t. Plus I’m learning to accept there are some things I can’t do. Some things I can’t fix.  Not now.

Sometimes we have to wait.

Meanwhile, there are things to do to make the waiting bearable.

What Nonprofits Can Learn from the Blues

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How to Write a Foolproof Nonprofit Grant Proposal

Too often grant proposals begin with some variation of “we want money because we’re a good cause and, since you’re good guys too, naturally this will be a match made in heaven.”

There’s nothing natural about this request.

In fact, it’s a version of “Alice in Wonderland Through the Looking Glass” thinking.

To paraphrase the Cheshire Cat speaking to Alice: If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.

Or not.

In fact, Alice tells the Cat she just wants to get “somewhere.” Could this, perhaps, be like you just wanting to bring in ‘some’ money to balance your budget? Hmnn… The Cat tells Alice “Oh, you’re sure to do that. If you only walk long enough.

Guess what?

Most funders reading your proposal will not want to read long enough. In fact, if you’re not clear on your destination from the get-go, they’re likely to abandon you before you get there. If you get there. In other words, wherever you end up, you won’t arrive there together.

And that’s the point of a grant proposal, right?

You seek a partnership… a travelling companion… an investor who cares about the outcome.

Where you’re Going… How you’re Going There… and How Much it Will Cost

Right from the get-go, this is what funders need to hear from you.

No beating around the bush.

Get right to the point with the specifics.

If the funder must read through several paragraphs – or pages – before it’s clear how much money you’re requesting and what, specifically, you intend to use it for, they’ll be in a ticked-off frame of mind as they read your proposal.

Not good.

Get organized!

The 6-step formula I’m about to share is one I learned when I first entered this business decades ago.

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Is Your Nonprofit Inadvertently Creating Stranger Danger Due to Coronavirus

Playground art alien robotI’ve been writing since this pandemic began about the importance of staying connected to donors right now.

Especially right now.

Empathically connected.

Humanly connected.

Dependably connected.

Now is no time to go dark on folks.

Not when they most need social connection!

Please take heed and, when it comes to your donors, don’t be a stranger.

Social Distancing Does Not Justify Donor Distancing

There are many aspects of staying connected with donors during this pandemic, and I’ve covered a lot of them in past articles. [See here, here, here and here for just some ideas; I have more!] Holding virtual events. Making thank you calls. Calling supporters to check in. Offering participation opportunities like town halls, community conference calls, zoom focus groups, engagement surveys and so forth.

But there’s one area I haven’t covered, because I didn’t think I needed to. Apparently, I do. Why? Because social isolation is changing us in unforeseen ways. And it’s messing with our minds in a way that comes out in our verbal expression.

Because there is so much emphasis on staying separated from others, and taking care of ourselves, this ‘separation mindset’ is creeping inexorably into our psyches. What do I mean?

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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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Your Nonprofit Appeal Response Device, Like Cheese, Stands Alone

Farmer_in_the_DellRemember the children’s ditty The Farmer in the Dell?

At the end, when all is said and done, what happens to the cheese?

It STANDS ALONE.

Your fundraising appeal response device, whether a reply card or donation landing page, is very much like this proverbial cheese.

In fact, it may be the most important element of your fundraising package.

Do you treat it with respect?

Or do you focus the lion’s share of your time on crafting, reworking and editing your appeal copy?  Then thinking about your letter and package design? And then waiting until the very last minute to think about your response device, treating it like a nuisance or unimportant chore?

Way too often I see folks spend endless hours crafting their appeal, only to fly by the seat of their pants when it comes to the response devise. This is a huge mistake.

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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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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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