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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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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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TWO Strategies to Tell a Compelling Nonprofit Story

I always tell nonprofits writing appeal letters to tell a story. One compelling, exceptional story.

Actually, you need TWO compelling stories.  We’ll get to that in a minute.

First…

Forget the data.

Forget the history of your organization.

Forget the explanatory prose about your processes.

Forget the list of all your programs.

Forget the superlatives about your longevity, awards, and so forth.

That stuff is compelling only to you. Donors don’t care. It’s just not relevant to them. At least not right away. Donors don’t have time to enter into all your self-indulgence.

Really, most folks don’t have time for you at all.

But…

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10-Step Annual Appeal from Start to Finish

The end of the calendar year is prime fundraising season. For most nonprofits, September through December will make or break your annual campaign. So… I want you to do the following:

  1. If you’re just sitting down to write your appeal letter, use this as your step-by-step guide to crafting a winning fundraising offer.
  1. If you’ve already written your appeal letter, use this as your step-by-step checklist to assure your fundraising offer is truly one a prospective donor won’t be able to refuse.
  1. Vow next year to have at least your appeal letter draft written and approved by September 1st. Put this date in your calendar, and work backward to create a timeline of all the steps necessary to meet this deadline. This will give you plenty of time to tweak your appeal language for different mailing segments, prepare your email and social media campaign using messaging and images from your mail appeal, get the letter to the printer and mail house, and prepare your carrier envelope, remit piece, donation landing page, thank you letter and overall acknowledgment plan.
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Fundraising Appeal Q & A: 6 Concrete Tips to Overcome Common Challenges

I recently had the opportunity to present a webinar for the Fired Up Fundraising Community on the topic of creating a compelling fundraising offer your donor can’t refuse. We covered a lot of territory, so at the end there was limited time for questions.  Many were left unanswered.  So…

I decided to answer in writing the ones that seemed to be repeated by more than one person.  These challenges, it appeared, were common enough they required some solutions. Or, at the very least, some clairification!

I sent the Q & A to all the webinar participants and thought, gee whiz, why don’t I share it with all of you too?

Here we go…!!!

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8 Tools to Be a More Effective Nonprofit Writer

Nonprofit writing is particular, because you’re always endeavoring to persuade.

So it’s not expository writing, like a term paper. It’s more narrative. As in telling a story. A compelling, emotional story.

Even the best writers, nonprofit or otherwise, can use a little help now and then.

And today we’re fortunate to have a number of online tools to help us write with greater clarity and polish.

When I say polish, I don’t mean big words and complex sentences.  I mean polish in the sense of shiny.  You want your words to gleam! To jump off the page and grab your readers’ attention.

And, guess what often gets in your way?

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4 More Magic Words that Increase Charitable Donations

In a recent article I gave you the “Holy Trinity” of fundraising success:

You, Because and Thanks.

Those are essential ingredients for any fundraising appeal.

Today I’m going to give you four more magic words:

Small, Immediate, Expert and Support.

Each of these packs a bigger punch than you might imagine, and tends to persuade folks on the fence to jump right off and land in your court.

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

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