3 Essential Ingredients for Every Great Fundraising Appeal

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Here are the number one, absolute essentials for writing a hard-hitting successful appeal: 1. Use I and you words. Keep it personal. Keep it between you and me. Make it intimate. 2. Give them detail regarding what exactly you need and exactly how the money will be used. 3. Show how the money will make an immediate and lasting difference. OK - an example: a ballet company can write and ask for: 1. general support, OR

It's OK to BLATHER, Board Members!

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Wow is this idea a hit with board members! Here's the deal - what I find is that board members don't, repeat, don't know what to say about their cause. This may come as a surprise to smart staff members, BUT it's TRUE! (If you don't believe me, then ask one of your board members what they say to people about your organization.) I'll bet that maybe only two or three of your board members have any sense of how they want to share the story of their favorite organization to their friends and the rest of the world. The problem is this:

How to Create a Hard-Hitting Hands-On Planning Session With Your Board

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Ah, death by strategic planning! Don't get me started on how AWFUL and what a TIME WASTER strategic planning can be. At least the way we do it in the noprofit sector. I am organizing a "hard-hitting, hands-on planning session" with an organization that has been wandering aimlessly for a few years. They wonder why they can't raise money? Here's the answer - their vision is not juicy enough to get excited about. Here's our agenda for our planning session: (I've changed the names to protect the innocent!)
  • Reconfirm Good Cause's vision and mission.
  • Reach consensus on what Good Cause wants to do in order to implement its vision and mission in the coming year and in the next 5 years. (broad framework here for the longer time period.)
  • Identify strategic directions and set some firm goals around each direction.
  • Answer the question: "how will we know if we have been successful?"
  • Determine the critical success factors that will make or break the new goals.
  • Agree on the board's role in creating success for Good Cause and what each person is committed to doing.
  • Set next steps so that the staff can flesh out a complete operational plan for the coming year.
I had to tell the staff - you can TRUST me that it will not be a WASTE of time. I told her that I will not facilitate a meeting that I wouldn't attend myself. : )

Emotional Hot Buttons to Use When You are Writing Your Appeals

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I am reading my favorite blog today, the Agitator. The authors Roger Craver and Tom are "direct response" guru's (remember it used to be called "direct mail?" Now it's much more sophisticated direct response.) help button red photoThey are citing an article by Denny Hatch about the best way to write "marketing copy." That's the technical term for the wording we use when we write appeals, brochures, email broadcasts and our fundraising materials. Denny is apparently an old pro at marketing and copywriting. He says that we need to be sure to do the following things:

Fundraisers are on the Front Lines of the Battle

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The New York Times today ran an opinion article about a new study…

How to Talk to Your Donors About Overhead and Administrative Costs

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Donors are always carping on the whole issue of "overhead." They…

Treat Board Members as Real People With Real Concerns

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I think we approach our board members ALL WRONG. We nonprofit folks have this idea that our board members should be devoted to the cause 24/7. And when they place other priorities in front of our to-do list, we are disappointed in the least. I hear a lot of complaining about board members. "My board members won't raise money," the executive director sadly whispers to me. "They won't even open doors," another friend confided. I thought to myself, well do these board members think they are supposed to raise money or not? I could have bet a case of beer that the staff's notion of what board members were supposed to do was not at all the same as the board members' idea of what to do. My nonprofit friends think, "Of course board members are supposed to raise money!" But the board members are probably thinking secretly to themselves, "I'll do anything BUT ask for money." Is there a conflict here? And here's the rub. There is bound to be disappointment on one side or the other unless there is a frank conversation about what you need your board members to do. If you want your board members to help in fundraising - And if you do need them to "raise money," then you have to give them a format for this work. You have to tell them exactly how to do it and make it easy for them. They need a lot of encouragement and hand holding, and that's fine! They aren't the "hardened professionals" that we are. So DO be realistic about your expectations and treat your board members like you'd want to be treated. They are volunteers. Wonderful, well meaning community volunteers. But they are untrained. They are not fundraising professionals. Treat them like the real people they are.

What We Can Learn from the Haiti Fundraising Effort

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Let us all be thankful at the outpouring of generosity from donors…

The Secret to Securing Long Term Support from a Foundation

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The Agitator Blog this morning has a thoughtful and poweful discussion of what "cultivation" really looks like. And they totally nail the key to developing a long term funding relationship with a foundation. Andrew Kramer, of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) in Houston, wrote in a long comment about his strategies for developing deep relationships with his donors. He focuses a lot on foundations because he raises a large amount of his revenue from these types of funders. He says "I’ve learned that most foundations treat honesty and candid feedback about what happened as their primary form of involvement in our organization. They’ve never come to us and said that we should run our program a certain way, they just ask us to think about what happened and there is tremendous value in that since most individual donors never do that. "Even with our foundations, the objective is never just to look at them as pools of cash for our benefit–the real value is in the fact that they require us to think about our programs and offerings, and then again that throughout the year they require us–sometimes in very thoughtful ways–to measure and assess what we’re doing." Now here's a fundraiser who knows what he's doing! How refreshing to hear that the foundations are not being considered as just "pools of cash" - but they also bring an added benefit to the orgaization. How refreshing again to hear that he does not consider the reporting back to foundation funders as a drag - but instead as a benefit, because thinking deeply about outcomes, and measuring what they are doing is USEFUL! How many organizaitons are prepared to offer frank and candid feedback about what happened to their funders? Are you willing to be so transparent? Or do you sugarcoat things when you report back? It's really hard to be totally frank with a funder. Funded projects almost always have breakdowns and challenges - that's part of trying to change the world! And during a project, sometimes we have to change course because the landscape has changed on us. But I have found over the years that if you go back with frank and candid feedback about the project, what you learned, what you'd do differently, what worked, what the challenges were - funders love this kind of honesty and realism. And they will trust you when you come back to ask again.

The Two Things Donors Want to Hear When You Appeal to Them at Year-End

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I hope you are in the full swing of the holiday season! And…

A Great Ask Event Ruined by a Slow Thank You

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A friend and client sent me this email last week: "I am a…

How to Hold a Thankathon for Your Donors

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Continuing in my theme of "count your blessings," I'm encouraging…

Best Nonprofit Taglines Announced

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Why do you need a tagline? It is your best chance to zap someone…

The Missing Ingredient in Your Year-End Online Fundraising

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Here's some pretty interesting info from this weeks Fundraising…

7 Tips for Writing A Good End-of-Year Appeal

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Here's a great blog post from direct mail expert and fellow blogger…

Top 10 Things Donors Want from Your Nonprofit's Web Site

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Did you know that most donors check out your web site before…