Nonprofit fundraising: True generosity is rooted in relatedness

generosity_network_cover_largeOne of our most recent additions to the CausePlanet summary library is The Generosity Network by Jennifer McCrea, Jeffrey C. Walker and Karl Weber. We liked their approach to fundraising because it’s not another book about how to be a more persuasive salesperson, how to leverage tactics and strategies, or how to find and leverage your donors’ interests.

Their message is a new one: “True generosity is rooted in relatedness.” The coauthors add that fundraising is a form of connection; it’s the greatest gift you can offer your partners. You’re giving them the chance to join a community that is sharing and applying unique gifts to meet specific challenges.

Surpass traditional fundraising with three common elements

To engage in connectedness and build a community that enjoys sharing its unique talents, the coauthors explain you need three common elements. These three elements are the basis of a transformational, rather than transactional, style of fundraising.cp_bookchoice_2016_green

1) Know yourself. You’ll explore questions such as: What is money’s role in my life? Am I comfortable talking openly about it? Why or why not? Do I view money as a scorecard, or as a resource to be used for things I care about?

2) Know others (especially those whose partnership you seek). Fundraising is often considered difficult or intimidating because you may believe that asking for money makes you vulnerable. You may fear rejection or dependence. These emotions prevent you from seeing your potential partners as human beings. The goal of this book is to help you get past these potential obstacles and look at your prospective donors with trust and friendship.

3) Know how to ask. For some, asking for money creates feelings of enormous anxiety. However, if you see yourself and others as a potential team in solving complex challenges, then you can get beyond the feelings that hold you back. Viewing yourself and potential donors as a team makes asking feel good. “Asking for money (or any other resource) when you are standing up, not on bended knee, is a joy—an invitation for people to relate to their resources in a new way.”donors

Ask yourself if you possess these three common elements for transformational fundraising. Learn more about this book in our summary featuring an exclusive interview with consultant and Fundraising the SMART Way author, Ellen Bristol, or visit the authors’ website at http://www.thegenerositynetwork.com/books/the-generosity-network/.

See related book summaries:

Fundraising the SMART Way™: Predictable, Consistent Income Growth for Your Charity + Website

Cause for Change: The Why and How of Nonprofit Millennial Engagement

Retention Fundraising: The New Art and Science of Keeping Donors for Life

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Charity auctions: Are they a fit for your nonprofit?

roguewinterfest-org
This article was first published by our friends at CharityChannel and kindly shared by CEO, Stephen Nill. The article is by consultant, Abra Annes, and her bio follows the post.

In the realm of event-based fundraising for nonprofits, there are a lot of ways to raise funds. At the invitation of Stephen Nill, CEO at CharityChannel, I’ve been invited to talk honestly about the pros and cons of charity auctions.

As a professional charity auctioneer for six years, how could I resist such an invitation? In my view, when they’re done right, there’s no better way to engage donors in just one night than a fundraising auction.

My goal is to share what I have learned while also setting aside, at least for the “con” part, my natural predisposition in favor of this form of event fundraising. So, with that disclosure, let me dive in!

The Pros of Charity Auctions

Inspire Others to Give by Example

The number one reason for an auction is to inspire others to give. Public displays of philanthropy typically inspire others who have similar capacity to help.

When the formula of a charity event is just right, the energy and the feeling in the room can be contagious. You can’t recreate that energy outside of a fundraising event. The energy will draw out priceless new donors and champions of your cause.iacac-org

Build Valuable Connections with Existing Donors

Charity events are a great way to connect with your existing donors. Personal interactions with your donor base are incredibly valuable. Most organizations focus on their major donors and don’t get to connect with mid-sized donors. Events are the opportunity to connect with them face to face. These are the biggest advocates and champions of your cause.

Think of your charity event as the ultimate first date. Craft every detail so that potential donors fall in love with you and existing donors fall in love with you all over again.

A charity auction can be viewed, and in my view should be viewed, as a key opportunity to cultivate relationships with prospective donors that will lead to a later solicitation of significant individual charitable contributions far greater than what was contributed at the auction itself.

The Numbers Make Sense

Only have an event if you’re committed to covering the cost from ticket sales. That way, all fundraising activities that occur the day of your event go towards the charity directly, rather than paying for the event. Communicate this in the invitation by printing an asterisk next to the ticket price and clearly stating that the ticket price goes toward event costs only. Make it very clear on the invitation that the event is for fundraising.

A Great Way to Share Your Organization’s Vision

Visions are inspiring, and a charity auction is a powerful platform for sharing your organization’s vision. Most charities talk about their mission instead of their vision. Your vision is what impact your organization will have had in three, ten, or more years. These are bigger ideas, fantastical goals, and grand solutions that you hope to obtain.

When you share your vision with donors and invite them to help you achieve it, you create excitement. Excitement and momentum can catapult your event to the next level of attendance and donations.

The Cons of Charity Auctionsyoucaring-com

Charity auctions are not the right fundraising method for many nonprofits. Typically, they are expensive and always have some hidden costs.

They are also time intensive. Charity auctions, like most event fundraising, take an exorbitant amount of time to plan and are taxing on your team.

If you have a small development team that is already maxed out, a charity auction could put some members them over the edge. A common time for staff to quit is after a fundraising event.

They Are Expensive

Charity events take time, money, and energy, so make sure it’s worth before doing one. You want them to be impressive and memorable to the people that have donated and new potential donors. For many of the donors, this is a night out on the town, so make it awesome!

Details, Details

You’ll need a venue, a top AV system, invitations, centerpieces, and a kick-ass auctioneer. And that’s all before you even feed your guests.

Failure to account for staff time is the biggest mistake most development directors make when they create a budget. Most forget to create a line item for number of hours worked for each staff member, including admin, marketing staff, and the executive team.

The Space Is Crowded with Competition

Charity Auctions have become increasingly trendy. Schools, hospitals, churches, synagogues, and other nonprofits of all sizes are holding charity auctions. Due to their increased popularity, they’ve become trendy and there’s a lot of competition.

Face-to-Face Solicitations Have a Better ROI

Direct solicitation of individual donors for large gifts, assuming optimal cultivation over time, will raise considerably more for a nonprofit organization than will any event, including charity auctions.

The risk with a charity auction, as is typical of all events-based fundraising, is that the focus will be on the event itself to raise funds, while missing the important opportunity to cultivate the right individuals.

A Charity Auction Will Not Magically Solve All Your Fundraising Problemscollegebound-org

If you think that a charity auction will be the panacea for your organization’s issues, it won’t.

Charity auctions require a lot of behind the scenes prep work to be successful. You’ll need to fill the room with the right people, who have the capacity to give and the capacity to care. Getting the right people in the seats can be a full-time job.

To have a truly stellar charity auction, you will need to block your calendar for the entire week prior. After the auction, you will need at least one week to process all gifts and logistics.

Another large problem I see are organizations believing that hiring me or another auctioneer will just magically raise tons of cash. I wish this were true, but the only way to get donations at a charity auction is with a fully prepared event and audience. People who have come to dance, get dressed up, party, or just have dinner, usually will not donate.

Sure, part of my job as a consultant is to make the ask, but my real job is to inspire those in the room to dig deeper and care. To inspire people who came thinking they were going to donate $10,000, and get them to give $20,000. The true power of a skilled auctioneer is to not leave a dime on the table.

See also:

Major Gift Fundraising for Small Shops: How to Leverage Your Annual Fund in Only Five Hours per Week

Fundraising the SMART Way™: Predictable, Consistent Income Growth for Your Charity + Website

The Ask: How to Ask for Support for Your Nonprofit Cause, Creative Project or Business Venture

Image credits: iacac.org, roguewinterfest.org, youcaring.com, collegebound.org

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Announcing CausePlanet’s Choice Award winners: Our top books for nonprofit leaders

cp_bookchoice_2016_greenIt’s my favorite time of year for many reasons. One of which is that my team at CausePlanet enjoys reflecting on the books we reviewed in 2016 for nonprofit leaders. Here are some of our favorites among them.

It goes without saying that this is an incredibly tough process because we don’t review a book to begin with unless we feel it has value for our readers. The titles below receive our CausePlanet Choice Award designation because each stood out on many counts, including factors such as originality, insight, inspiration and applicability.

We would like to congratulate the following authors on providing our sector with guidance and wisdom in these wonderful book titles:

How to Turn Your Words into Money: The Master Fundraiser’s Guide to Persuasive Writing by Jeff Brooks. turnyourwordsintomoneyfb

Jeff BrooksHow to Turn Your Words into Money is a nonprofit writer’s new ally with the latest guidelines for creating the most effective messages to persuade your reader. Brooks explains what fundraising writing is not and what it should be. He does so in a way that tells you exactly what to avoid and what to try in your next attempt to sway your audience. A fair amount is appropriately dedicated to the many ways you can create a compelling story even when you’re stumped. How to Turn concludes with what every fundraising writer needs: universal assumptions we know about donors and some helpful advice to keep you inspired. 

Performing Under Pressure: The Science of Doing Your Best When It Matters Most by Hendrie “Hank” Weisinger and J.P. Pawliw-Fry.performingunderpressurecover

Pressure is the enemy of success, according to vast research conducted by Performing Under Pressure authors Weisinger and Pawliw-Fry. Since it’s impossible to live life free of pressure, the authors present strategies to manage it immediately and in the future. Divided into three parts, this book helps you understand all aspects of pressure-inducing situations, provides 22 powerful solutions for handling pressure scenarios, and explains how to build your own “armor” to protect yourself over your lifetime from the ill-effects of pressure. 

Retention Fundraising: The Art and Science of Keeping Donors for Life by Roger Craver.retention-fundraising-cover

If you want to change the world, author Roger Craver argues that you must tackle one of the greatest fundraising challenges: retention. In other words, don’t raise a dollar unless you have a plan for keeping that dollar. Unfortunately, low retention has become increasingly accepted as a given in nonprofit operations. Craver asserts this doesn’t have to be the case. Thanks to a study of more than 250 organizations, Craver and his collaborators have introduced a framework for boosting retention and the lifetime value of donors. This framework is the foundation to improve each of the retention issues he presents, from redefining loyalty to understanding authentic engagement.

Mobile for Good: A How-To Fundraising Guide for Nonprofits by Heather Mansfield.mobile-for-good-cover

Any doubts you may have that social networks aren’t powerful or don’t need to be a priority in your communication and fundraising efforts can now be put to rest, according to Mobile for Good author Heather Mansfield. A comprehensive and thoroughly researched resource for nonprofits, Mobile for Good helps you master mobile content distribution on social networks so you are more likely to experience fundraising success. She provides recommended software, helpful checklists and nonprofits you should model. Advanced users will find a section dedicated to nonprofit staffers who are ready to tackle more challenging strategies. 

The Good Ones: Ten Crucial Qualities of High Character Employees by Bruce209-by-248-the-good-ones-cover Weinstein.

Questionable character is costly. Employees who lack character cost businesses and nonprofits billions of dollars each year. Unfortunately, employers focus too much on what candidates need to know or do and rarely think about what makes an employee great: character. The Good Ones: Ten Crucial Qualities of High-Character Employees presents ten qualities that clarify what it means to be a high-character employee. Stories from employers and employees illustrate how these traits are critical to the long-term success of your nonprofit and to the employees who exhibit them. This book contains advice for the employer, the interviewee and employee in search of a character fit.

The Generosity Network: New Transformational Tools for Successful Fundraising by Jennifer McCrea, Jeffrey C. Walker and Karl Weber.generosity_network_cover_large

The Generosity Network was written for those of you who work for one of the 1.8 million organizations that make up America’s nonprofit sector and the 10 million nonprofits worldwide. Whether a nonprofit leader, volunteer, board member or front-line employee, each person plays a critical role in attracting support for its organization. This book describes an approach that makes working with partners easier, more effective and, dare we say, more fun. The basis of the coauthors’ approach is rooted in relatedness and connectedness with partners. These partnerships are built upon three elements: know yourself, know others and know how to ask.

I encourage you to give yourself the gift of knowledge and download one of our book summaries and purchase the book. Make 2017 count by committing to your professional development. Knowledge has a shelf life and it must be renewed!

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Avoid the 2-year website relaunch cycle: Look at ROI and mission

screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-4-00-39-pmIf you’re looking to improve your website, you’re not alone. According to Captivate and Engage coauthors, Jay Wilkinson and Randy Hawthorne, nonprofits relaunch their websites about every two years. This is due to several factors.

Are “go-to geeks” the answer?

Primarily, nonprofits hire website designers whom the authors affectionately call “go-to-geeks.” These professionals are tech-savvy but the authors argue that a great site is more about mission, vision and cause more than about technology. “No programmer can manufacture those components,” explain Wilkinson and Hawthorne.

The doing-more-with-less fallacy

Another reason why nonprofits find themselves in a constant state of website revision is the “fallacy of doing more with less.” This is based on the idea that you should make decisions based on cost rather than value. “Get as much as you can for as little as possible.” Unfortunately, this philosophy contributes to a very short shelf life for your website.

Look at ROI and mission before you leap

When we asked Jay and Randy about preliminary considerations before you launch a website, they had the following answer that touched more on the fallacy mentioned above. We also asked about one of their primary recommendations: connecting the website to the mission. Read on.

CausePlanet: What is your advice for nonprofits that want to make the initial investment to build a website the right way? What are the preliminary considerations?

Wilkinson and Hawthorne: First and foremost, don’t fall into the “we have to do more with less” trap by focusing entirely on the cost of the website. Way more important than cost is the return onscreen-shot-2016-10-27-at-3-09-13-pm investment, or ROI. A nonprofit could spend $50,000 on a website and double its money by increasing contributions or spend $500 and get nothing in return except for a bland site with a few photos and its mission statement.

Which one “costs” more for the nonprofit? Fortunately for everyone, great nonprofit websites with gargantuan ROIs don’t have to cost $50,000. We recommend finding a provider that specializes specifically in working with nonprofits. It has probably already built the functionality that you’ll need—meaning it’s not starting from scratch. Then, know what you want. Take the time to seek out other nonprofit websites to cite as examples. It’s the single best way for a developer to know how best to please you.

CausePlanet: You stress the importance of getting in touch with your mission, vision and values before engaging in the business of enlisting technological help. Have you seen any of your clients do this successfully and what did that look like?

Wilkinson and Hawthorne: Yes. We see it all the time. Every web developer worth her salt will tell you that when the leadership team for the nonprofit is involved in providing direction for the website, the product always comes out better. The closer someone is to the heart of the organization, the more insight and guidance she can give. 

A great example of this is the Groundwater Foundation at Groundwater.org. The President, Jane Griffin, is involved in every aspect of the website. As a result, the purpose and mission of the organization is deeply embedded into the site’s DNA. You can’t visit the website without gaining a sense of its mission.

See book summaries related to this topic:

Captivate and Engage: The Definitive Guide for Nonprofit Websites

Content Marketing for Nonprofits: A Communications Map for Engaging Your Community, Becoming a Favorite Cause, and Raising More Money

Brandraising: How Nonprofits Raise Visibility and Money Through Smart Communications

Image credits: Groundwater.org, NonprofitHub Press

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Who says you can’t get smart on National Taco Day?

tacoIt’s National Taco Day today and you’re probably wondering what tacos have to do with great books for nonprofit leaders. Well, it turns out a lot. Before I share our CausePlanet spin on tacos, I’ll give you a little context.

At Smithsonian.com, history professor Jeffrey Pilcher suggests that the taco originated around the 18th century in Mexico’s silver mines. “Taco” refers to the charges they would use to excavate the ore. The charges were pieces of paper the miners would wrap around the gunpowder and insert into holes they carved in the rock face.

In honor of America’s passion for the taco, we’ve assembled four titles at CausePlanet that make up the acronym T-A-C-O. Together, these recommended books cover governance, fundraising, content marketing and leadership. What more could you want? Okay, we threw in some salsa, too. I hope you enjoy blending your passion for getting smarter with a little history and culture today.

T Transformational Governance: Our newest recommendation about how change happens at the board level, not just what it looks like at the end.

A Asking Rights: Learn how to successfully fund your nonprofit and do so with a greater focus on funder interests and motivations.

CContent Marketing for Nonprofits: Examine how your marketing and fundraising strategies must dramatically change in order to genuinely attract donors and adapt to evolving market influences.

O Ordinary Greatness: Find out how to maximize your organizational results by cultivating the potential for greatness in everyone.

Plus, some salsa:

Salsa Soul and Spirit: Leadership for a Multicultural Age: Discover the eight principles of multicultural leadership and how they can be applied to your organization.

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Nonprofits and donors: Doing more good means making some changes

downloadHow to Be Great at Doing Good author Nick Cooney argues that none of us has been taught what it means to truly succeed at doing good in the world. What’s more, we have never been prompted to give charity the seriousness and rigor it deserves.

“Although it may feel counterintuitive or even cold-hearted to take a numbers-based approach to charity, Cooney reveals that making calculated decisions isn’t just possible, it’s absolutely necessary if we want to succeed at helping others.”

Through a series of enlightening studies in human behavior, compelling interviews with philanthropy professionals, and applied personal experiences from founding and managing top-rated nonprofits, Cooney presents an eye-opening examination of our traditional approach to succeeding at charitable leadership and philanthropy.

The author’s challenge to you

It’s a challenge to get serious about charity. His challenge rests on two premises: “1) The first premise is that the goal of charity is to make the world a better place. It is to help those who are suffering and to increase well-being. 2) The second premise is that in whatever capacity you carry out charity—as a donor, a volunteer, or a nonprofit worker—you want to succeed as much as possible.”charitycoverdalefury_com

At the time this book was published, Americans donated only three percent of their income to charity and participated in an average of 15 hours a year volunteering. If every dollar and minute should be maximized to its fullest potential, donors, volunteers and nonprofit leaders must overcome their dependency on assumptions rather than facts, which are primal barriers to smart decision making, and avoid navigating choices based on emotional tendencies, among other things.

A tall order but one that Cooney asserts is worth pursuing if we genuinely want our charitable leadership and philanthropy to be truly great. What that means for nonprofits is a new language used with donors that empowers and informs. What that means for donors is applying rigor to giving so the dollars do the most good.

Doing good or doing great? A tale of two charitiesthephilannews_com

Cooney gives the example of the Theatre Communications Group versus the Seva Foundation. The theater group’s mission involves improving communications between theaters and workers so they can learn from each other. The Seva Foundation works to reverse blindness in India caused by cataracts. It sends surgeons to India to remove cataracts through a simple and inexpensive procedure. It combats blindness in over 100,000 people each year.

The author discusses which charity makes the world a better place by “reducing suffering and increasing well-being.” When we confront the brutal fact that not all charities do the same amount of good, the Seva Foundation is more successful in making the world a better place. It reduces more suffering and increases the well-being of hundreds of thousands of people for their lifetimes. It also does it inexpensively.

Therefore, contributing to a theater organization can certainly be a personal passion and can consume some of the 97 percent of Americans’ income that is not dedicated to charity. But to actually help people and reduce their suffering, the Seva Foundation deserves your charitable dollars.

Three steps toward making the most impact 

An excerpt from our Page to Practice book summarynick_cooney_com

CausePlanet: You stress that people need to go against their natural, emotional instincts to support charities that make an efficient impact. Awareness is the first step, you say, but what other concrete steps can people take and how can they create a support system so a mass of people can move in this direction?

Nick Cooney: As I say in the book, empathy and compassion should be the fuel that we put in our tank, the things that motivate us to give. But they should not be the hands on the steering wheel that decide where to give. Instead, we should try to think logically and dispassionately about the very best places to give.

Some concrete steps to help make that happen are first, realize that the reason we donate is to do good–namely, to reduce the suffering or increase the happiness of others. If we really care, we should donate where it will do the most good–decrease the most suffering, increase the most happiness.

And that means not necessarily focusing on the causes that we feel most interested in at the moment, or that are the most relevant to us, or that are local to where we happen to be living. Rather, it means trying to find the causes where our dollars will do the most good, even if it’s not a cause or a charity we’ve thought a lot about before. So realizing that and internalizing it is step one.

Step two is look for what info is out there already, for example sites like Animal Charity Evaluators and Givewell. I also recommend browsing the site of the Open Philanthropy Project, which has tried to do some of this same sort of analysis.

Third, connect with others who are already trying to think about and carry out charity in this way. Places like The Center for Effective Altruism have some helpful resources for connecting with others who want to do the most good with their money (or time).

See book summaries on related topics:

Charity Case: How the Nonprofit Community Can Stand Up for Itself and Really Change the World

With Charity for All: Why Charities Are Failing and a Better Way to Give

Do More Than Give: The Six Practices of Donors Who Change the World

Small Change: Why Business Won’t Save the World

Charity On Trial: What You Need to Know Before You Give

Image credits: wiley.com, charitycoverdalefury.com, thephilanews.com, nickcooney.com

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Nonprofits: Don’t raise a dollar unless you plan on keeping it

According to Ken Burnett, “Our nonprofit sector is bleeding to death. We’re hemorrhaging donors, losing support as fast as we find it, seemingly condemned forever to pay a fortune just to stand still. It’s time we stemmed the flow.”

It’s understandable why Retention Fundraising author Roger Craver chose Burnett to write the forward for this book. Burnett brings the right amount of warning to the issue. Burnett is right. Our social sector is in dire need of determined action to diminish donor attrition.

Why?

A few of the many reasons include the following: Attrition costs our organizations billions of dollars and effort. It suffocates the other mission-related work we’re trying to do. It undermines the sector as a whole. Unfortunately, many fundraisers accept low donor retention as a fact of life.

Roger Craver says it doesn’t have to be that way. Craver has unpacked the answers to many of the challenges nonprofits face with attrition such as shifting the fundraiser’s focus to what matters most to donors, overthrowing retention barriers, responding efficiently and more.

Thanks to a study of more than 250 organizations, Craver and his collaborators have introduced a framework for boosting retention and the lifetime value of donors. This framework is the foundation to improve each of the retention issues he presents, from redefining loyalty to understanding authentic engagement.pinterest-com

We asked Craver about how to make a case for retention activities if you need to enlist your colleagues and leadership in the process. We also had him share insights on the metrics you should measure:

CausePlanet: How do you convince nonprofit organizations that focusing on donor retention is worth the extra time, effort and expense?

Craver: Year after year for the past decade, donor-retention rates have been sinking. Today, they’re at an all-time low.  According to studies by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, every $100 raised from new donors was offset by $100 in losses because of attrition. All this despite the facts that organizations have

– a 60-70 percent chance of obtaining additional gifts from an existing donor.

– a 20 to 40 percent chance of obtaining an additional gift from a recently lapsed donor.bloomerang-com

– but less than a 2 percent chance of obtaining a gift from a prospective donor (actuation).

So one thing should be glaringly obvious. The bulk of an organization’s fundraising spending should be aimed at holding onto and building relationships with existing donors, not in acquiring new ones. It’s called “retention.” Unless an organization’s goal is to never grow and eventually decline, the failure to focus on retention is ultimately ruinous as the organization’s support shrinks like a raisin in the sun.

CausePlanet: Would you talk about how the metrics you have developed (lifetime value, etc.) help a nonprofit track its fundraising and justify its time and effort?

Craver: There are some fundamental metrics that serve as a sort of fundraiser’s GPS—Retention Rates and Lifetime Value. They quickly and easily indicate whether an organization is relevant to its donors.

Number of new donors making a second gift: A harbinger if not dead-on predictor of the retention rates and Lifetime Value an organization is likely to enjoy in the future.

Number of new donors retained into the second year: If you ask and answer the question as to why so many donors leave the first year and what your organization is doing to lose them and hold them, you’ll be on a true track to growth. Fail to answer them, and it’s more of the same.

Multiple Year Retention Rate: Same as above, but by tracking these year by year you can spot trends, problems and opportunities. Why? Because year-over-year comparisons of this metric will trigger additional questions and answers for improving your program.blog-capterra-com

Lifetime Value of a Donor (LTV): At the end of the day all the actions you take to improve retention, average gift and donor commitment will be reflected in the Lifetime Value of each donor and all donors collectively. This is the key metric on which you can benchmark, guide and then track the success–or failure–of your intermediate and long-term strategies.

There’s never been a better time for Roger Craver’s book. Why let one more hard-won donor leak through the bucket when instead, she could be a lifetime supporter of your organization. Simply put, calculate the cost of repeated acquisitions versus the renewal of a donor who is predisposed to support you.

Craver provides countless data-based methods for retaining donors including Cliff Notes to his own advice at the end. From what drives donors to stay to what prompts them to leave, Craver makes it impossible to look the other way on retention–and your nonprofit will be better for it.

See other book summaries related to this title:

Fundraising the SMART Way™: Predictable, Consistent Income Growth for Your Charity + Website

Fundraising When Money Is Tight

Influential Fundraiser: Using the Psychology of Persuasion to Achieve Outstanding Results

Image credits: blog.capterra.com, bloomerang.com, pinterest.com, retentionfundraising.com

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Nonprofits: Four things fundraising is not

globalpassionblog-wordpress-comJeff Brooks’ How to Turn Your Words Into Money is a nonprofit writer’s new ally with the latest guidelines for creating the most effective messages to persuade your reader.

Brooks explains what fundraising writing is not and what it should be. He does so in a way that tells you exactly what to avoid and what to try in your next attempt to sway your audience.

A fair amount is appropriately dedicated to the many ways you can create a compelling story even when you’re stumped. How to Turn concludes with what every fundraising writer needs: universal assumptions we know about donors and some helpful advice to keep you inspired.

Brooks asserts that fundraising writing is different than any other writing. Many of its most successful examples defy English conventions and are counterintuitive.

Brooks begins his book with what fundraising writing is not and then describes what it should be.

We’ve excerpted his “Don’t” list here for you.

Educating is not fundraising:theconnectedcause-com

Educating donors about your cause does not motivate them to give. Appealing to their passions and telling them about a person who is suffering motivates them to give. After they give, they are then willing to learn more about your cause. For example, educating donors about statistics on homelessness does not increase giving. Telling a person’s homeless story does motivate them more often. People are motivated by their emotions and interests, not facts.

Bragging is not fundraising:

Talking only about your impressive self does not work in any situation. Instead, “only share excellent qualities that are relevant to donors.” Don’t talk about your stellar processes, fame or awards you’ve won. Donors want to contribute to results and be part of your excellence. Instead of saying what your organization has done, attribute your success to your donors’ generosity:

“We’ll stretch every dollar you give so you help the greatest number of people in the most life-transforming way.” Share these relevant facts with your donors: a purpose statement that shows you share your donors’ values, watchdog approvals or ratings, and quotations from authorities or celebrities that vouch for you.

Journalism is not fundraising:sharpenet-com

If you focus on the five Ws (Who, What, Where, When and Why), you will miss the word “you,” or the donor. Instead of just telling a homeless person’s story, relate it to the donor: “Frank is a lot like you. He loves his kids, and like you, he’d do almost anything to make them happy. But last Christmas, Frank had to make a bigger sacrifice than most parents. …” (He spent his last few dollars on gifts for his daughters he hadn’t seen in more than two years and became homeless.)

Furthermore, as a fundraiser, you need to be biased, not objective, about your cause. Therefore, focus on the conflict or what needs to change, show a problem, unveil the enemy, and recruit the reader by appealing to his values and challenging him to take action.

Humor doesn’t work well in fundraising:slate-com

For several reasons, stay away from humor: 1) It doesn’t translate across cultures or different age groups. 2) Insider jokes about your organization do not work with donors who are outsiders. 3) Humor makes fun of something or someone, which does not inspire empathy, kindness or a willingness to give.

We asked Books about testing his messaging in our Page to Practice author interview:

CausePlanet: How often do you test your fundraising messages? Do you see donor’s preferences shifting very often?

Jeff Brooks: You should test all the time–if your quantities are big enough to yield statistically significant results. If they aren’t, testing is a waste of time and money, and it’s just as likely to tell you the exact opposite of the truth as it is to enlighten you. If you can’t test, you should pay attention to those who do.

We can count on donor preferences shifting over time. It happens slowly in direct mail and more quickly online. If something works really well now, it may not always work. A few years ago, everybody started using brown paper bags as envelopes for direct mail pieces. It really worked like crazy. Then it suddenly stopped working–probably because it became so common it lost its novelty value.

Why you should buy this book

Anyone charged with communicating on behalf of his nonprofit should buy this book. Brooks shares the latest conventions and discoveries in effective fundraising messages. In fact, very few of our early fundraising conventions remain and those that do are bendable rules at best.

What you learned in school or early in your career is no longer relevant. You will find the art and science of writing to the donor has evolved a great deal. Jeff Brooks is the antithesis of “those who can’t do, teach.” He’s a consultant and practitioner who is constantly perfecting, testing and retesting his craft. You’ll find this book supremely insightful and a bottom-line-changer.

See other relevant book summaries and titles:

Brainfluence: 100 Ways to Persuade and Convince Consumers with Neuromarketing

Content Marketing for Nonprofits: A Communications Map for Engaging Your Community, Becoming a Favorite Cause, and Raising More Money

Seeing Through A Donor’s Eyes

Image credits: Slate.com. sharpenet.com, globalpassionblog.wordpress.com, theconnectedcause.com

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Are you measuring up to Brooks’ advice on how to turn words into money?

TurnYourWordsIntoMoneyFBJeff Brooks’ How to Turn Your Words Into Money is a book about what fundraising writing is not and what it should be.

Brooks tells you exactly what to avoid and what to try in your next attempt to sway your audience. A fair amount is appropriately dedicated to the many ways you can create a compelling story even when you’re stumped.

As Brooks explains in his post, you’ll get a lot of specific fundraising advice and writing tips like:

Specifically how to ask.

How to use rhyme to make your message more memorable and persuasive.

How to tell stories that motivate donors to give.

How to tell a great story even when you don’t have a story.

How to meet donors’ emotional needs.

Whether you should use guilt as a motivator.

The most common traps for fundraising writers — and how to avoid them.

 

We asked Jeff Brooks about the fundraising profession and how it compares with his advice:

CausePlanet: Jeff, do you think the nonprofit world is shifting to honor your fundraising advice?

Books: I’d say a qualified yes. The idea that you’ve got to focus on donors and their needs if you really want to raise funds is widespread. There are few experts left who don’t focus on donors these days, and there’s a ton of great help for being donor focused. fineartamerica-com

I think there are two dark clouds in our bright donor-focused sky:

There are still a lot of organizations that are using crappy old techniques. They seem to be caught in a time warp. They’re still eking some kind of success out of it, but in most cases, they’re living on strong legacy brands. They don’t have to reach out to donors, because so many donors already believe they’re worth giving to. This can’t go on forever, so these organizations are either going to change or go into financial death spirals in the coming years.

For too many fundraisers, “donor centered” means “fundraising I like.” Which by definition is not donor centered. Every day I see examples of modern, slick, intellectual, clever fundraising that’s terribly ineffective–but self-labeled as “donor centered.”

Those of us who believe in really meeting donors and making them the heroes in our fundraising need to push against both of these shortcomings!

 

In spite of all the attention new fundraising strategies attract, raising money via the written word is still one of the most effective strategies you wield as a nonprofit. In fact, your messages are now played out in more ways than we ever dreamed.

It’s never been more pressing to get a handle on your writing style and how it triggers a donor to give via mail or online. Brooks has a superior track record in this realm and his book shares a bounty of insider knowledge.

See our book summaries related to this title:

The Fundraiser’s Guide to Irresistible Communications: Real-World Field-Tested Strategies for Raising More Money

The Money-Raising Nonprofit Brand: Motivating Donors to Give, Give Happily, and Keep on Giving

Image credit: EmersonandChurch.com, fineartarmerica.com

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It’s the perfect time for Tom Ahern’s “Making Money with Donor Newsletters”

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 12.43.11 PMThere’s never been a better time to enter our Get Smarter Give Away book drawing.

Donor acquisition costs are at an all-time-high and retention rates are at an all-time-low. Author Tom Ahern has written Making Money with Donor Newsletters: The How-To Guide to Extraordinary Results and now you can apply every chapter that is chock full of illustrations and guidance.

Tom Ahern is a leading authority on donor communications and reveals many secrets behind highly successful newsletters, including the “Domain Formula” that has help countless charities with a guaranteed method for raising funds.

Chapter titles include “How to make news out of thin air,” “How to create a donor-centered newsletter without a budget or designer” and “How to lower the grade level of your writing (and why you need to).”

How to enter? Simply email us info@causeplanet.org and put Tom Ahern in the subject line. That’s it.

Congratulations to Andrea who won our drawing last month for a free copy of Fundraising Habits of Supremely Successful Boards!

See some of our CausePlanet book summaries related to this title:

How to Write Fundraising Materials That Raise More Money

How to Turn Your Words into Money: The Master Fundraiser’s Guide to Persuasive Writing

Seeing Through A Donor’s Eyes

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