Posts Tagged ‘The Fundraiser’s Guide to Irresistible Communications’

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

 

 

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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

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