What does your charity have in common with Louis Vuitton?

What does your charity have in common with Louis Vuitton-

Imagine this: it’s pay day.

You pay your bills, you set aside money for groceries, you put a little money away in savings, and you generally make sure all your needs are met.

If you’re fortunate enough to be able to do that, and even more fortunate that you have money leftover, then you might think to yourself: what else can I do with my money?

Maybe there’s some work to do on your house. Maybe you want to go out for a really nice dinner. Maybe you love purses and you’ve been saving up for a designer bag.

Or maybe… maybe could you consider giving to a charity?

This is the noise we’re trying to cut through, folks!

This post was inspired by a client the other day, who compared charities to luxury brands. Obviously people have many views about charities and the importance of giving, but my client was right; for many, giving to charity is a “nice to have”. It’s one of the potential ways you can spend that extra money that you’re lucky enough to have.

But there’s a lot of noise! There are flashy, highly-produced car commercials. There are glossy pages in magazines with beautiful people holding beautiful bags. There are a lot of temptations, and charities can’t afford to get their ads everywhere that a luxury brand is advertised.

Now I know this isn’t the way we need to think of all donors, especially current ones. Obviously the work we do is more important than the noise we make, and a lot of donors are so committed to us, our mission matters to them, that a Louis Vuitton bag couldn’t tempt them away from us.

But when we think of the world beyond that, and the people that might be interested in giving to our cause that aren’t right now, we need to think about what “the market” is saturated with. Not only are we competing against luxury brands, but we’re competing against other charities, and the competition can be fierce.

Let this be the reason you take a risk. Let this move you to try something you’ve been wanting to but haven’t made a strong enough business case to your boss yet. Think about a digital media buy. Think about a more creative envelope with your next acquisition mailing. Think about trying something new!

Because the charity next door is doing it… and Louis Vuitton definitely is.

~~

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for over nine years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
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If I won the lottery…

That’s dumb. I’d give to some of the 85,000 registered charities in Canada alone. They’re doing good work. I’d help them do what they’re good at. Just because I’m a new multimillionaire doesn’t mean I’m suddenly an expert in things.What I would do though? Create a fundraiser watchdog organization. Recent conversations at AFP Congress, The #Donorlove Rendezvous and Fundraising Day have reminded me that the charitable sector employs thousands of loving, generous and empathetic people. We are people who care and want to give back and help things get better for everyone.But that has a dark side. It means that we sacrifice our work-life balance to achieve goals. It means we don’t push for fair working hours or fair salaries or more support staff because “that’ll affect the cost per dollar raised”. Because there’s always MORE to do! To raise! To help! We think in the short-term. We don’t invest in our people. We burn people out at an alarming rate.

We are vulnerable employees because we are often contract, non-union, and full of HEART.

Which is unfortunate. First, because most charitable sector employees chose to work here because they wanted to do good. And we harm them? Second, because fundraising is built on relationships. And this sector is built on fundraising dollars! Churning through staff every two years is not reassuring to a donor with whom we’re trying to build long-term, loving relationships, nor is it the way to build fundraising programs with long-term strategies and goals. 

So.

A watchdog organization. Here are some components that would be important:

  1. Educational sessions for employees and employers on the Employment Standards Act (ESA) or whichever employment act is applicable where you live. We often don’t have Human Resource departments. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have to follow proper Human Resources Policy. I’m not an expert, but from poking around in the ESA, I’ve learned that in Ontario, employers need written permission to make you work over 44 hours a week, and that salaried, non-managerial employees are entitled to time and a half for every hour over 44 hours worked a week, or 1.5 hours of lieu time. I had no idea.
  2. An anonymous forum to air grievances and warnings: Other groups, like journalists, have done this. Fundraising in particular is a small, close-knit community. But there are some terrible bosses, some terrible work places and there should be a space for discussion. Ken Wyman, Fundraising Education Godfather, has spoken many times about this – what do we do to warn others? Nothing right now, just word of mouth.
  3. Legal Aid: Because I’ll have won $50 million from the lottery I never play, I would employ employment lawyers to support charitable employees in making their employers comply with the law.
  4. Board member education sessions: Hey dummies! If you don’t pay your staff enough to do the MASSIVE AMOUNT of innovative work you want them to do, they’ll leave! Pay them what they’re worth. You invest in your employees at your companies. Why don’t you think charities should do the same?
  5. A certification program that verifies workplaces as being ESA (or local employment act) compliant.

But unfortunately, I’m not a newly-minted lottery winner. I don’t even buy tickets.

So what can I do? I’m 30, I’m 8 years into my fundraising career, and I’m now a strategist at an agency. I’m not a CEO. I’m not a VP. I’m not even a manager. I’m not in charge. I’m just someone who gets sad and frustrated when I hear the same stories about charities over and over.

I never want to hear a CEO say “Oh we don’t do lieu time here, because we all work overtime.”

Nope.

I never want to have a colleague respond to my rants about too many weekends with “well, I mean, I don’t care because I want to further my career and being agreeable and doing the work will help me. Why rock the boat?”

Nope.

I never want to spend months with a sore heart, full of worry about a wonderful co-worker who has gone on sick leave because of stress and anxiety and depression and exhaustion, all stemming from terrible leadership.

Nope.

I never want to be held to the same commitment standards as a director who makes 10 times my salary and gets double my vacation time. You can hire a cleaning service, afford a car, and get away from it all at your cottage. I can’t.

Nope.

I never want to leave a job at an organization I love because I am totally and completely burnt out. Spent. Done.

Nope.

I would describe myself as a fundraiser to the core. I am not interested in being in charge. I feel lucky that I’ve found a role that suits my skills and a team that embraces my quirks, and I hope I can support the sector! I work with fundraisers everyday in my new role as a strategist and while none of them are dealing with major dysfunction like in some charities, I can still see that these amazing, dedicated fundraisers still have their own struggles.

Why are they so prevalent? And what are you doing to change the culture at your organization?

I wish I was ending this post with a bright and happy solution. An easy takeaway for you to take back to your charity to implement and make things better. I can’t. I can support my peers. I can be kind and loving and giving to my coworkers. I can be firm in setting my own work-life balance. I can mentor.

But, I’m not in charge.

Maybe you are.

Maybe you can start changing things from the top.

~~

Written by Stephanie Highfield

Screen Shot 2016-07-20 at 6.12.02 AMStephanie is a fundraiser, a thinker, and a maker. Currently a Fundraising Strategist at Blakely, she’s spent the last 8 years working for a variety of charities across Toronto, raising funds for and telling stories about everything from fully digital hospitals to children’s choirs to family-centred addiction treatment. Click here to learn more about Stephanie.

Connect with Stephanie via:
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What does a “culture of philanthropy” look like?

What does a -culture of philanthropy- look like-

I went out for a drink with a wonderful fundraiser the other day, Juniper Locilento.

We got on the topic of the elusive “culture of philanthropy”. We were talking about where Juniper works and how great the culture of philanthropy is there. Lucky her!

When she said how great it was, what she meant was that internally, staff – fundraising or otherwise – really understood the mission of the organization, felt its importance personally, and were motivated to give back, even though as a staff member they were already serving the organization so well.

How wonderful is that?! We find it so wonderful because unfortunately an internal culture of philanthropy can be hard to find. It doesn’t mean staff at an organization don’t care passionately about what they do. What it means is that there’s some disconnect between “the work” and “the money”. Staff members may not realize that the fundraisers are on the same team as they are. Or they don’t understand the importance of fundraising, where the money goes, how it all works, etc.

We’re focused – rightly so – on our external stakeholders; trying to get them to understand all of these things, but we ought to spend a little more time internally, too.

How could we do this?

Well, there’s always the strategy of putting together a slide deck and teaching people about fundraizzzzzz……

(If you didn’t get it, I’m suggesting the above strategy will make your colleagues fall asleep with boredom.)

LET’S GET CREATIVE!

One awesome idea Juniper shared with me was giving staff members the opportunity to tell their story. Why did they want to work for your organization? What matters most to them about the work that you do? What is an experience they had working there that really inspired them?

What does a -culture of philanthropy- look like- (6)

It’s not about learning the math of fundraising. It’s somewhat about knowing what the money does, for sure, but getting people thinking about their values, making it personal, and feeling inspired… That’s going to go a long way.

How do YOU inspire a culture of philanthropy?! Share in the comments below, or send me an email.

Thanks for reading!

~~

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for over nine years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
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The 4 habits of highly engaged donors

the 4 habits of highly engaged donors

When you think of the most engaged donor at your organization, what sets them apart?

Do they volunteer? Do they attend events? Do they donate a lot of money?

Those are fantastic indicators of engagement, but I’m here to tell you about four habits that some of your donors demonstrate that don’t immediately flag their deep level of engagement, but should.

#1 – The habit of RSVP’ing to events

Attending events is one thing, but RSVP’ing – even to say no – is an awesome indicator of engagement. If this donor cares enough about you to let you know they’re not coming – and they feel that YOU care to know? They love you. They really really love you.

#2 – The habit of providing multiple pieces of contact info

If this donor gives you their work phone, cell phone, home mailing address, business address, and more than one email? They want you to get in touch with them. If you can’t reach them at work, try their cell! They like when you reach out!

#3 – The (RARE!) habit of updating their contact info with you

Have you ever had a donor proactively update their mailing address with you because they moved? If you’re like me you’re probably chuckling to yourself because this so rarely happens. More often than not, we know a donor moved because our letter to them is returned to us. But I bet at least once in your fundraising career you’ve had this happen. And let me guess: that donor is one of your most engaged. I’m not surprised. A donor who does this is a donor who cares.

And finally… the least fun part of our jobs…

#4 – The habit of complaining

It happens to all of us. It’s no fun, but it’s a part of our jobs: when a donor calls in to complain. It’s hard to look at it this way sometimes, but the donor who calls in to complain is the most committed, caring, and loyal donor we have. Think of all the people out there who used to give to your organization but something frustrating happened to them and they stopped giving… and now they’re just a lapsed donor. We don’t know why they stopped, just that they did. However, when that “something frustrating” happens to a donor and they care enough to call in and tell you? We can work with that. Complaining means you hope for – and believe that there can be – a solution. That donor wants us to fix the situation. And when – not if – we do, they will continue to be the most loyal donor we have… if not more loyal than ever before.

What are your other unconventional flags for donor engagement? Share in the comments below! Or tweet me @fundraisermaeve.

Thanks for reading!

~~

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for over nine years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
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Why do donors give so little?

why do donors give so little-

I heard Mark Phillips talk about this once and I want to wax philosophical on it for a few minutes.

We seem to hear year after year from research like what Penelope Burk does that donors didn’t feel they gave as much to charity as they could the year before.

Why is this?

Put simply: We’re not asking enough of our donors.

We’re not asking them often enough. We’re not asking them for enough money. We’re not giving them enough ways to engage with us more deeply.

On the point of not asking donors for enough money, Mark has a great illustration of this.

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Why do donors give so little? Because we ask them to.

Now don’t think for one second that I don’t think every gift is important, that every donor is important, or that every person who supports a cause with a dollar a day is stupid.

I value all donors.

But we have been part of this misconception that that’s what charity costs: a dollar a day. That’s all a donor needs to give to make a difference and feel engaged.

We have been doing ourselves – and donors! – a disservice by perpetuating this falsehood.

And when it comes to mid-level donors – or potential mid-level donors – who you know I love talking about, this is part of the reason why we have disengaged and uninspired donors in the middle: because we aren’t giving them a special enough opportunity to engage with us.

We aren’t inspiring them with a big problem for them to solve through a big investment.

Donors give us a lot and they are so amazing and we are so grateful.

However, donors seem to be telling us that they aren’t giving as much as they can.

So let’s find ways to inspire a new level of giving among our donors.

And then steward the hell out of ’em so they know how much they mean to us.

~~

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for over nine years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
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4 things I learned at #AFPFC

4 things I learned at #AFPFC

I’m back from AFPFC a.k.a. the Association of Fundraising Professionals International Fundraising Conference, and I’m ready to share with you my top learnings.

Take little bets.

Take little bets. What I loved about a lot of the sessions I went to was that the presenters looked at the small ways we can innovate, make change, and show #DonorLove. In Steven Shattuck‘s session The Art and Science of Retaining Digital Donors, he talked about 3 opportunities to thank, engage, and – as a result – retain digital donors.

  1. Through the “Thank You Page” a.k.a. the webpage donors land on after successfully making an online donation.
  2. Through the confirmation email a.k.a. the “receipt” we send donors after they make an online gift.
  3. Through the formal acknowledgement we send them later.

Mark Rovner also took this approach in his session called Why midlevel donors are sweeter than Christmas morning, which I sadly wasn’t able to attend since I had to head to the airport, but which I followed on Twitter. Mark shared 3 great tactics to show mid-level donors some #DonorLove.

  1. Put your business card in their donor welcome package.
  2. Pick up the phone [and call her/him].
  3. Send him/her a handwritten note.

Get donors to DO something.

Get donors to DO something. Steven Shattuck talked about this in his session, too. When donors land on your Thank You Page, for example, does it just have a nice (or not so nice) message they can read (or not read) before just clicking the “X” and forgetting about you? OR do you give them a way to further engage with you?

A company called Abila in their session Digging Deeper Into Donor Behavior & Preferences: 2016 Donor Engagement Study, shared some recommendations on how to do this:

  1. Through a short video (2 minutes max.).
  2. Through a short note or article.
  3. Through a short Facebook post.

(See a pattern? It must be short!)

-If you always do what you've always done, you'll always be who you've always been.-

Fundraising = Impact Investing. Fundraising as investing is not a new idea to me, or to any of you, I’m sure, but it was definitely discussed a lot at AFPFC. It was discussed quite a bit in the Tuesday general session, and it was a big chunk of Kay Sprinkel Grace‘s amazing session: Where is the Sector Headed?. Kay urged us all to be nimble and to take risks. People are sick of giving to charities when they could give through venture philanthropy and make a bigger, more direct impact faster. We’re seen as a sector focused on scarcity, and nobody wants to give to a desperate organization. They want to give to a winning organization! We need to make change if we want to “win”!

Don’t be a bad houseguest. After many years of admiring him from afar, I finally got to see Tom Ahern speak in real time/real life in his session titled “Loverizing”: The Lucrative Difference a Few Well-Chosen Words Will Make in Your Donor Communications. Tom inspired the audience in so many ways, but a quote that really resonated with me was:

-A lot of charities could be mistaken for egotistical maniacs.- - Tom Ahern

Tom asked us to think about it like we’re a guest in a donor’s home, even when we send them direct mail. Do we want to go to their house and talk about US – the charity – non-stop? We did this, we did that, we we weOR do we want to talk about them and how great they – the donor – are? I think the latter.

Thanks for reading!

~~

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for over nine years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
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Guest Post: Three Strategies to Improve Donor Retention

3 strategies to improve donor retention

The truth of the matter is, there isn’t one fundraising metric to hold high above the rest. The evaluation is holistic.

The challenge with tracking metrics is that our limited time and resources are being funnelled towards development, marketing, program services, and other important endeavours.

Additionally, no organization’s data is perfect. To ensure accuracy, your nonprofit is going to have to clean the data in your CRM prior to delving into performance analysis.

All that being said, metrics are still extremely important. To make the most of when you do study up, strategically map out which metrics make the most sense for your nonprofit with an eye for metrics that address numerous potential pain points at once.

Donor retention rate is one such metric.

From finding faults in your stewardship process to recognizing that your acquisition efforts carry too much of the workload, a poor donor retention rate says a lot.

Acquiring a first-time gift costs roughly five times more than it does to retain a donor. Couple that with the fact that The Fundraising Effectiveness Project found that increasing donor retention rate from 45% to 55% has the potential to double an organization’s donation revenue, and there’s no fiscal argument against solidifying your nonprofit’s retention strategies.

The strongest indicator of future giving is past giving. Leverage that opportunity!

So how do we do this? You surely have standard retention-related stewardship policies in place (drip email campaigns, acknowledgment techniques, etc.), but you’ll have to think creatively to kickstart your retention. Let’s close out by offering a few retention strategies to add to your pre-existing processes.

#1 — Promote matching gifts.

Almost two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies have matching gift programs. These programs match donations made by employees to a wide range of nonprofits. The matches often double the original donation size which is a huge boon for your nonprofit.

In terms of retention, donors who know that their gift size can grow through very little effort on their part are going to be inclined to give again and again.

Donation impact is critical; stress how impactful one gift can be!

#2 — Research your donors.

You can benefit from turning the prospect research microscope toward your donor pool.

A screening fills in gaps regarding both the financial situation and philanthropic interests of your donors. Take advantage of the opportunity to learn more so you can segment your donor pool for better, personalized stewardship practices.

#3 — Engage with donors without asking for more money.

Hopefully, this item is already on your list. But it warrants emphasizing that donors are cause advocates and not piggy banks.

Give donors opportunities to contribute in non-financial ways. Those are powerful, firsthand experiences that stick with supporters, influencing their decisions to donate more later.

Next time you study your data, ask yourself — what are we doing to make our donor retention dreams a reality?

~~

Written by Blake Groves

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With more than 20 years in technology solutions and consulting, Blake has knowledge of sales, consulting, product management and marketing. For the last 10 years, he has narrowed his focus to how Internet technologies can help nonprofit organizations, and prior to joining Salsa, he held positions at Convio and Charity Dynamics.

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Guest Post: Do Your Donors a Favor — Stay Compliant    

do you donors a favour -- stay compliant

Everyone likes giving to a good cause. But how do you separate the “good” from the “not-so-good?”

Part of a donor’s decision to give comes from their positive intuition about your organization and its people. However, good vibes only get you so far!

One clear way to demonstrate your worth is to stay compliant. Compliance isn’t all that sexy, but it’ll help you secure donations and inspire confidence in your donors.

What is Compliance?

Nonprofits are highly regulated at the federal and state levels, and for good reason. Governments want to make sure the funds you raise actually go to the charitable mission you set out to do. At the same time, the state and IRS want to make sure the citizens you solicit funds from are protected from illegitimate or sketchy organizations.

Compliance is staying on the right side of state and IRS requirements by keeping good records and keeping current with required registrations.

Let’s take an example. Most donors are familiar with the term “501(c)(3).” If an organization has its 501(c)(3) status, generally, donors can make a gift and get a tax deduction at the end of the year.

Many nonprofit leaders think that being 501(c)(3) tax exempt is all there is to it. In reality, it’s not.

Forty-four states regulate charitable solicitation (a.k.a. fundraising) inside their borders. Forty-one of them require your nonprofit to file a separate registration before you even ask for a donation. Chances are, your charity operates and solicits in one or more of these states, and so you have to pay attention to applicable registration requirements.

Penalties for noncompliance, whether intentional or not, can be several thousand dollars in state fees, or you could lose your right to fundraise in a state altogether. If you solicit funds in a state, be sure you understand your state’s requirements.

Why is Compliance Important?

Besides avoiding state penalties, think of who really matters: your donors. Help them know that you’re one of the good guys.

Most states have a database where donors can search for your organization before they give. They can see if you have registered or not. If your charity is delinquent, your donors can see that too.

They may even ask you directly! Individual donors, corporations, and foundations (who give grant funding) very often ask for proof of registration with your state, along with your IRS Determination Letter. Without either, you’ll walk out of the room with your tail between your legs!

Compliant organizations make much of their program, financial, and leadership information public. As a donor, it is reassuring to know that the charity you wish to support plays by the rules, and as a charity, it’s good to show your supporters you have nothing to hide.

So, show some #donorlove – stay compliant. You’ll make their decision to give much easier.

~~

Written by James Gilmer

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James is a compliance specialist for Harbor Compliance, which establishes 501(c) nonprofits and helps them stay compliant. Harbor Compliance assists charities in every state and several countries abroad. James serves on the Board for two nonprofits in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Connect with James via:
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Making Data Sexy

MakingData Sexy

Where does the “data person” at your charity have their office?

Is it in the basement? Away from sunlight?

Are they pale? With bloodshot eyes?

No, I’m not implying that “data people” are vampires…

But I am implying that we don’t think of them as the “sexy” part of our organization.

And that’s wrong! Data is sexy!

You know who knows that? The for-profit world. Think of something awesome like… PC Plus.

pccard_registration

PC Plus is my local supermarket’s loyalty/rewards program. So if you don’t have PC Plus, think of the same type of program at your supermarket. Or Air Miles! Same idea.

Here’s the gist: I buy my weekly groceries and when I scan my PC Plus card at the end of my purchase, the supermarket knows exactly what I’m buying. I get points for what I’m buying, and then I get offers for more points based on what I most frequently buy. Because I’m getting points, which turn into dollars off future purchases, I feel I’m benefitting from the process. The supermarket is definitely benefitting because not only are they encouraging more purchases – through the points – they’re also getting oodles of data on buyers’ behaviour, which they can use to make better business decisions, and to make more money.

Are we – charities – using data to raise more money? 

We are way behind the for-profit world in this area. Sure, we have a lot less money to play around with for this type of thing, but we’re still not investing nearly enough of what we do have.

What if we invested money and time in paying more attention to our donors’ behaviour?

What if we tracked what campaigns they do and don’t give to throughout the year and stopped mailing them for the ones they don’t give to, and doubled our efforts in soliciting them for the ones they do?

What if we tested using different messaging and creative for different genders? Or different age groups? If we segmented our data that way, tracked the performance for the different test groups, and then spent some time considering the insights we drew from that… wouldn’t that change the way we fundraise?

And if we found one approach better than another… or different approaches better for different segments, we’d raise more money by implementing those moving forward.

Isn’t that what we want to do?

Raise more money?!?!

The simple truth is that we’re not using our data as well as we can, and we’re missing opportunities to raise more money – and be better fundraisers – along the way.

Some of us can afford to invest more in this than others, but all of us can afford to try something new in 2016. Even something small.

So that’s my first challenge of the new year to you: try something new with your data.

And please report back in the comments!

Good luck, and Happy New Year!

~~

Sign up for my email list and get a FREE E-BOOK on mid-level donors!

Written by Maeve Strathy


Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for over nine years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
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Guest Post: How to Turn Your Words into Money – A Book Review

How to Turn Your Words Into Money - A Book Review (1)

I am not a great writer.  If I am being super honest, even writing this book review caused me a bit of stress. That is why I am so grateful for Jeff Brooks.

Do you know Jeff? He’s the smarty-pants behind Future Fundraising Now, and the author of some pretty awesome books – and his newest book, How to Turn Your Words Into Money: The Master Fundraiser’s Guide to Persuasive Writing, breaks down step by step exactly what you need to do (and NOT do) to write fundraising copy that makes donors want to give..

The book has great practical tips (more on that in a second) – but one of my favourite things Jeff does is little “what not to do” and “what to do” before & after style examples throughout. I found them to be super-duper helpful. Here’s one example….

jb1 jb2

So, what did I learn? For me the book boils down to this:

jb3

Audience is everything: Know your audience (donors), think about your audience (donors), love your audience (donors). Make content for your audience (donors) and no one else  – not your CEO, not your board and not yourself!

jb4

Giving is beautiful: Understand what giving does for the GIVER (the donor) not just what the gift does for the beneficiaries. Giving feels really good! And guess what?? That means that fundraising isn’t begging or annoying. When done right donors love well-written fundraising copy.

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The Donor is the Hero: Writing fundraising copy well means putting the donor at the heart of your good work. Talk about them – what they have accomplished. What the donor has done – and can do – to help others in need.

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Overall this book is easy to read (it only took me a day), incredibly informative and I really believe it will help you raise more money. It’s for sale on Amazon, and we may be giving away a copy or two at the #DonorLove Rendezvous. I promise you it is worth reading.

~~

Written by Rory Green

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Rory is a Senior Development Officer by day, and FundraiserGrrl by night. As a major gifts fundraiser, she connects donors with an opportunity to invest in a better future. FundraiserGrrrl is a blog about her cheeky observations about life in fundraising.

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