Posts Tagged ‘Jeff Brooks’

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!

Leave a reply

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

Leave a reply

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

Leave a reply

Find out why you shouldn’t like your donor message

The donor relationship equity built over the lifetime of an organization should not be taken lightly. Author Jeff Brooks encourages you to apply his proven strategies for raising more money and avoid jarring tactics that jeopardize donor relationships.

One of the passages we liked best in Brooks’ latest book, A Fundraiser’s Guide to Irresistible Communications, was titled “Self-centric fundraising.”

Simply put, if you like your message, your donor won’t. Read on to find out why:

Self-centric fundraising

If you like your fundraising message, asserts Brooks, it will not appeal to your donors. Even if your donors say they like it, it will not compel them to give in real life. “Everyone’s conscious opinions about fundraising are automatically wrong. … Everyone hates the stuff that works best.” This happens because when you practice self-centric fundraising, or what appeals to you as the fundraiser, you lose the emotion because your initial emotional connection to the cause has become more sophisticated and educated as you have worked for the nonprofit.

For example, you may want to talk about global hunger as “food insecurity” after working in the field. A donor would not understand this term at all. In addition, you don’t focus on the donors because you are proud of your organization’s work and want to detail its merits.

Donors, however, want to be part of the equation. Finally, “your copy reads like inter-office memos.” Formal, professional, cold communication does not motivate donors to act. In this kind of copy, you focus on facts: “Please consider supporting the 124 children in our hospital,” instead of a compelling, emotional story about a 6-year-old girl talking about her good-luck bear in her fight against cancer.

In order to avoid these self-centric messages, turn off your personal likes and dislikes in favor of what has worked with donors before, either in your organization or others. Ask if it is emotional, clear and simple, rather than if you like it or not.

In our interview with Brooks, we asked more about what donors want to hear:

CausePlanet: What do you think is the best training fundraisers can receive? They need to be fluent, smooth writers but also need simplicity and an intuition about what donors want to hear.

Brooks: The best possible training is an experienced mentor–someone who knows fundraising inside and out and will go over your work in detail and show you what needs to be done. Read quality books about fundraising. There are a lot of them, and the folks at CausePlanet can help you find the right ones. Also, read a few of the blogs.  There are a lot of them, many of them superb sources of information. Find a blog you like, then add a few more from that blog’s blogroll. Finally, get to know other professionals and talk about stuff. Get involved in your local AFP, and/or go to one of the national conventions. Knowing and talking with other professionals really makes a positive difference.

CausePlanet: What in your research makes fundraisers lose money more than anything?

Brooks: Failing to engage with donors. Asking donors to “stand with us” rather than give them specific actions they can take. Writing in the language and about things that organizational insiders care about, rather than what motivates the donors. Using images that make insiders feel good instead of those that reach donors. Using abstractions and wordplay instead of clear, plain, powerful emotional messaging. Bragging about the organization and its programs instead of making it about the donors.

Read more about this book in our Page to Practice summary and other related titles:

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

Seeing Through A Donor’s Eyes

How to Write Fundraising Materials That Raise More Money

Image credits: dishntell.wp.com, iconarchive.com, goodwp.com

 

 

Leave a reply

Donor surveys hide the truth about longer fundraising messages

Writing fundraising communications is not merely a derivative of commercial marketing, academic writing or business prose. It’s a highly specialized and nuanced technique that requires experience, ongoing testing and specific knowledge about the reader.

Nonprofits that risk taking a casual approach to their fundraising communications or worse, allow someone without context or background change the branding and donor outreach methods entirely, will find themselves recovering lost ground for months, sometimes years.

The donor relationship equity built over the lifetime of an organization should not be taken lightly. Author Jeff Brooks encourages you to apply his proven strategies for raising more money and avoid jarring tactics that jeopardize donor relationships.

In Brooks’ latest book, The Fundraiser’s Guide to Irresistible Communications: Real-World Field-Tested Strategies for Raising More Money (www.EmersonandChurch.com, 2012), he skillfully and entertainingly instructs you in an easy and informative manner about everything you need to know about fundraising communications.

To wax on or not to wax on

In this post, I want to highlight one of many elements he covers in the book under “Writing Style.” Brooks tackles the debate over the length of your content and that longer messaging allows for effective use of repetition and storytelling.

What donors really want in your fundraising messages

Even though it is counterintuitive, longer messages, when tested, work better than shorter ones. When donors are asked whether they want short or long messages, they assert they want shorter ones. But actual donor behavior favors the longer messages.

No one really knows why, but theories include the following: A longer appeal can contain multiple triggers or opportunities to relay a message, such as a visualization of a life-threatening need or emphasis on a problem, and a longer message holds more weight, among others.

The two essential characteristics in the best longer messages include:

Stories: You can flesh out your stories in longer messages to deliver more vivid images.

Repetition: This will help your readers get the message clearly. Here is an outline Brooks gives for your message:

Introduction: Why I’m writing to you.

Ask.

Why your gift is so important today.

Ask.

How much impact your gift will have.

Ask.

Story that demonstrates the need.

Ask.

Remind the donor of his values and connection with the cause.

Ask.

Another story.

Ask.

Help the donor visualize what will happen when she gives.

Ask.

Conclusion: Thank the donor for caring.

Ask again.

If you haven’t picked up on Brooks’ theme here, let me spell it out for you. Longer messages let you repeat your ask and frame it in several ways, increasing your chances for triggering the response you’re looking for. Additionally, stories have greater potential when they can be expanded with more detail and emotion.

Why do fundraisers get it wrong when writing solicitations?

Content length is simply one of numerous techniques Brooks covers for fundraisers who find themselves in the communications role. Let’s pull back from this specific writing style example and introduce one of Brooks’ answers to our question about why so many fundraisers get it wrong when crafting an appeal. Here’s what he said:

CausePlanet: Jeff, thank you for writing this book that clearly emphasizes the best ways to write fundraising materials, contrary to many common beliefs. Why do you think so many fundraisers are so misguided and write unsuccessful solicitations?

Jeff Brooks: Almost everyone who enters the fundraising profession comes from somewhere else. Those who realize they’re in a new world and seek to understand it quickly learn how to do effective fundraising. Those who aren’t curious and open-minded, who insist on bringing the conventions of another discipline (such as commercial marketing), fail repeatedly and spectacularly.

The other source of unsuccessful fundraising is “Fundraising From Yourself”–the belief that if it’s persuasive to me, it’s good. That NEVER works. You have to aim at donors, and that always means you won’t find the message compelling.

See this book, Page to Practice summary and other relevant titles:

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

Seeing Through A Donor’s Eyes

How to Write Fundraising Materials That Raise More Money

Image credits: EmersonandChurch.com, leonlogosthetis.com, allisoncarmichael.com, thedailywalk.org

Leave a reply

CausePlanet’s Choice Awards–Top Books for nonprofits from 2014

Here they are — our favorites from 2014. We read so many compelling, insightful books last year on a variety of essential topics, but the final choices came down to originality and applicability.

Each of our Choice Book Awards had either a fresh perspective on an imperative competency or broadened our thinking by tackling new territory. Additionally, all the authors brought their content to life through helpful case stories, exhibits, tools and evidence. These favorites are sure to help you work smarter; we hope you delve into them soon.

CausePlanet’s Top Five Choice Awards from 2014:

1) Fundraising the Smart Way: Predictable, Consistent Income Growth for Your Charity + Website by Ellen Bristol


Bristol gives you an innovative, concrete way to track and monitor your donors’ progress toward making donations. No more guessing about a prospect’s ability and desire to give means you can confidently meet and surpass your fundraising goals. Learn more about the author, book and Page to Practice summary.

2) The Money-Raising Nonprofit Brand: Motivating Donors to Give, Give Happily, and Keep on Giving by Jeff Brooks


Brooks shares an unvarnished, refreshing look at how to captivate more donors with accessible ideas that specifically work for nonprofits. He delivers new ways to connect your brand with your donors in a manner they won’t forget. Learn more about the author, book and Page to Practice summary.

3) The Nonprofit Leadership Transition and Development Guide by Tom Adams


Adams establishes an irrefutable link between effective leadership and organizational impact. What’s more, he comprehensively illustrates numerous advantages and opportunities bestowed upon nonprofits that engage in proactive training, succession planning and transition management. Learn more about the author, book and Page to Practice summary.

4) Fundraising with Businesses: 40 New and Improved Strategies for Nonprofits by Joe Waters


The organization of this book is what really caught our attention. Waters gives you specific cause (pronounced “khaz” by Waters) marketing strategies, how to implement them, ideas you’re encouraged to steal and success stories at every turn. His approachable format is chock-full of applicability. Learn more about the author, book and Page to Practice summary.

5) The Abundant Not-for-Profit: How Talent (Not Money) Will Transform Your Organization by Colleen Kelly and Lynda Gerty


Kelly and Gerty reveal a transformational method for utilizing your community’s expertise. At the center of this transformation is a new breed of volunteer—a “knowledge philanthropist.” The abundance model will revolutionize your use of talent, cultivate a renewable resource and be a welcome relief on the budget. Learn more about the author, book and Page to Practice summary.

Thank you to all our authors who give us reading pleasure and professional inspiration every day. It’s a pleasure to promote your smart advice at CausePlanet.

Leave a reply

Welcome! Please provide your log-in information below.
Forget your password?
Enter your email or user name and your log-in information will be sent to the email on file.