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Do You Know Jack Tracksler?

February 18th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted in In The Spotlight

Jack Tracksler Head Shot
Jack Tracksler is the Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Connection Strategy. His career path through direct mail and email marketing have marked a great foundation for the automated phone call programs run at Connection Strategy. A communications major in college and work as a professional radio announcer, Vice President for Development and decades of sales experience give him unique abilities with which he serves his clients.

What makes Connection Strategy unique among Telemarketing Companies?

First of all, Connection Strategy is not a telemarketing company. Telemarketing is defined as selling something over the telephone. We help clients increase response rates, lower donor and member renewal costs and inform their constituency through automated phone calls. We view ourselves as a company that improves your marketing mix and reach to your donors and members. So, we are a marketing company that uses automated phone calls.

You mentioned Members and Donors. Do you only work with Non Profit Organizations?

We provide marketing assistance to all sorts of companies, across all channels. However, through partners like Brian Lacy and Associates, we feel our sweet spot is centered on non-profits. Almost everyone at Connection Strategy has been involved in automated phone calls since the industry began. I like to think we know more and have done more than any company working with non-profits. Our calls are crafted to increase response rates for both donor and membership renewal mailings. We help universities sell tickets to bowl games, collect tuition, connect with prospective students through innovative enrollment management programs.

Sounds interesting. How do you help with donor renewal?

We send out an automated phone call several days prior to a donor renewal mail piece arriving. The call says nice things about the donor and the organization. They feel good about themselves and open the letter when it arrives. Depending on the organization, we have increased response rates anywhere from 15% to 42%. One major university client credits our programs with them surpassing their renewal goals by 20%. This in a year when they were sure they would fall very short of their goal.

Does it work every time?

We have one client who is fond of saying, “the Connection Strategy program works every time”.

So, anything this good must be hard to implement, right?

Actually no. We need a file, with phone numbers, in any format that is convenient ; audio recorded ( we’ll help with the script and provide a toll free number for recording; a phone number to show in the Caller ID and the hours you’d like us to make the calls. That’s it. We’d like 3 days to set up the program, get audio approved and analyze the file – but have been known to do it in less time.

Then what happens?

We send out the calls. The day after the program is completed we send out two reports – one is a summary of the calls that were delivered to live answers and answering machines, bad numbers, etc. We also append call outcome to each record in the file in a Call Detail Report. This way the client has the opportunity track results and analyze the program accurately.

OK, is anything this good and this easy expensive?

No, again – sorry. Program costs are based on the number of calls we deliver either by the program or on an annual basis. Through our partner Brian Lacy and Associates ( 860-478-9291 / info@brianlacy.com) we are will conduct campaigns starting at just 10 cents a call.

What else do you offer?

You’re pretty much limited only by your imagination. We can do with voice what laser printers do with personalization and paragraph variations. We can deliver a call to one place and then transfer it to another. We can produce it in any language. Bring your ideas to us and we’ll work with you to design a marketing plan that works for you and integrates seamlessly.

Haiti And The Rest Of Us: What’s Next For Non-Disaster Charities?

February 18th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising

Seventy million dollars and counting. That’s how much money the Canadian arms of three major aid charities (Médecins sans frontières, the Red Cross and World Vision) raised for Haitian relief work by January 25. Other international relief and development charities report unprecedented results as well. The Salvation Army received $120,000 in just a few days in its first ever text messaging campaign. The backroom technology that made it possible comes from the Mobile Giving Foundation.

Bandwagon unites private and public enterprise

Private enterprise and even some government corporations aren’t far behind. The Liquor Control Board of Ontario brought in $126,000 in one week for the Red Cross by asking for $2 at the cash register. Air Miles encourages people to donate points. Benefit concerts, bake sales, fundraising walks, classroom campaigns and Facebook pages abound. And then there are the endorsements from celebrities: Celine DionNelly FurtadoMichael J. Fox and Donovan Bailey, to name just a few.

janet_1In the U.S. the House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill allowing donors to Haitian relief to claim their gift on their 2009 tax return. (The Ministère des Finances in Québec announced a similar measure January 22.) “Are they saying that feeding and sheltering America’s growing population of hungry and homeless, caring for our nation’s sick or preventing life-threatening diseases is any less noble than the relief efforts in Haiti?” Greg Fox wrote on DonorPower.com in response to the U.S. action.

Right now we may feel like asking our media the same question.

2004 tsunami didn’t impede regular campaigns

What does all this mean for your charity’s prospects in 2010? We can look to the 2004 tsunami for clues. Arguably, that disaster occurred at a time when it might have had the greatest possible effect on overall fundraising – the crucial last week of opportunity for catch-up giving, scrambling procrastinators and tax-savvy donors. Yet the Association of Fundraising Professionals reported that in both Canada and the U.S., nearly two-thirds of nonprofits raised more money in 2004 than in the previous year (Canadian Fundraiser, August 31, 2005).

That’s good news for the rest of us. Add to that the fact that the generous response to the Haitian catastrophe occurs at the beginning of a new year of giving, that the economy seems to be recovering (for the time being anyway), and that the sector is more skilled and professional than it was in December 2004, and there may be no reason to tinker with the goals and budgets we’ve established.

Communicating our case

How, then, do we conduct ourselves as representatives of charities not relieving such dramatic need? Above all, says communications expert Nancy Schwartz, acknowledge it. “Pretending the disasters didn’t happen is the worst mistake your organization can make,” she advises.

It’s time for sensitive communication. You may actually go as far as to acknowledge the impact of the earthquake and the contributions your donors and prospects are likely to have made, she counsels. In doing so, you create the opportunity to talk about your issues and the resulting needs that persist even in the face of the Haitian tragedy.

Don’t overstate a connection between your organization, services or programs and the disaster, Schwartz warns. Continue your regular media campaigns and press releases, and if your pitch is timely, continue to make it.

Direct mail consultants differ on the immediate impact of the Haitian fundraising efforts. Lisa M. Deitlin told The Chronicle of Philanthropy that she recommended delaying direct mail fundraising appeals for a few weeks if possible. But Canada’s Fraser Green contends that the vast majority of disaster donors are not regular donors to charities in general. Since most of his clients see their greatest returns on the first renewal campaign of the year, usually held in January, he warns against delaying that first critical mailing too much.

Making the most of opportunities

Media coverage of a calamity inevitably declines as new news emerges. In Canada, the Olympics are just one of the stories waiting to crowd the devastating situation of Haitians off our news sites, front pages and airwaves. It’s not fair, but it is predictable.

Let us encourage the organizations engaged in Haitian relief to make the most of their limited time in the spotlight. Your solid communications plan, compelling case and knowledge of your audiences will have their usual effect in due time. We will all benefit from media attention to the many ways of giving, both old and new. Above all, we will benefit from the media’s celebration of generosity – the real good news in the midst of this tragic tale.

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Email and Fundraising

February 18th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising

Sending email to thousands, indeed millions, of recipients has become common for for-profit business and non-profits organizations.  A few things to consider when deciding how important an email strategy is for your organization and its constituency follow:

1. How current are your records?  Do you have emails on 25% of your donors and prospects email addresses?  If so, you have a good starting point.  If you’re short on addresses in your database, you may want to consider email appending and other strategies to enhance your data.

2. How large is your audience?  Are you trying to reach a few hundred people or many thousands of prospects and past supporters?  With small counts, only email campaigns make the use of color and other exciting visuals possible. With larger audiences, the savings associated with email campaigns relative to direct mail campaigns are enormous.

3. How effective are you at reaching your base through direct mail, by phone and in person?  Should you use all mean available to cultivate and prospect and steward donors?  Because your constituents can receive email any time, and because its use is ubiquitous, effective use of email can only assist use of the more traditional methods.  Email campaigns can stand independently or lift response supporting other appeals.

4. How can direct mail, phonathons and personal visits help you enhance your efforts related to social networking?  Can all three techniques combined, do as much as either email or text messaging independently?  No, they cannot.  The immediacy of data and subscription links within email and text messages make these services stand above more traditional solicitation techniques because we can control and promote our social networks.  I will encourage text message marketing in future issues of this publication.

5. Email marketing can boost your existing efforts.  It likely deserves a higher percentage of your current resources than it receives.  Its relationship to social networking means that the longer you wait to fully engage in email marketing, the further behind you are relatively to your peers and competitors.

If you would like to talk about ideas you have regarding the use email in your work, please drop me at an email at brian@brianlacy.com or giving me a call at (860) 478-9291.  Lots of my best ideas are free for the taking.

Sincerely,

Brian

Rethinking Ways to Give Wisely

February 18th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising

As a new generation of donors seeks greater accountability from not-for-profits, advisers are seeking new ways to gauge the good an organization accomplishes

By Amy Feldman

Individuals in the U.S. give away more than $200 billion a year, yet the vast majority of those decisions are made ad hoc.Few donors have any idea whether they are giving to the best organization in the area they want to improve, or even whether their giving is doing what they want it to do.A slew of nascent efforts to rate and grade charities, as well as the pending overhaul of the big kahuna of nonprofit ratings groups, Charity Navigator, may change all that.

At least a half-dozen groups have come up with different answers to the question of how to help donors make good decisions. In addition to Charity Navigator, these online efforts include GiveWell, Philanthropedia, and GreatNonprofits. In addition, GuideStar, which serves as a clearinghouse of data and information on nonprofits, has begun adding some of these rating efforts to its site.Offline, two new efforts—from Root Cause and Partners for Change Initiative—are working to get information into the hands of financial advisers as they struggle with how to help their clients make giving decisions.

Not all of these efforts are new, but philanthropy experts say that they have begun to reach critical mass, and that the proliferation of different approaches to the same question will ultimately be good for both donors and nonprofits. “There is a mindset shift going on in philanthropy,” says Sean Stannard-Stockton, chief executive of Tactical Philanthropy Advisors, an advisory firm to high-net-worth donors based in Burlingame, Calif. “People want to know that their money is actually making a difference.”

That’s especially true in the current economic downturn. Donors have less money to give, while charities need more cash to provide services to more people in need. The result is more donors who want to know that the money they do give makes a difference, and not-for-profits taking more steps to show their results. But the longer-term trend predates the recession. Baby boomers have become used to getting advice on their finances, yet there are few places to turn for philanthropic advice for those giving less than $1 million. While increasing numbers of people have set up donor-advised funds, which can be a smart financial-planning move, these vehicles don’t answer the question of where to give the money for greatest effect.

Washington is also playing a role in the mindset shift. The Internal Revenue Service did a massive overhaul of the Form 990 that not-for-profit organizations must file—the biggest such change to the form in three decades—requiring lots of new information on governance questions. Meanwhile, the Obama Administration has set up the Social Innovation Fund, which is slated to invest $50 million this fiscal year in bringing innovative nonprofits up to scale.

“There is a lot of energy around this right now,” says Laura Callanan, a philanthropy expert at McKinsey & Co. “Social impact assessment is the holy grail for people doing philanthropy and nonprofit work. How do you know what works and why? And how do you know that money is making a difference in people’s lives?”
Calculating Social Impact

As with any new benchmarking effort, figuring out whether a charity is effective at what it does is not so simple.

After all, a homeless shelter, international relief organization, or other philanthropy is not a business; its social impact needs to be evaluated on different criteria than profit and loss and the true impact of its programs may not be clear for years to come. Plus, doing an in-depth analysis may be too expensive for many small not-for-profits that are already stretched for funds.

The recent devastating earthquake in Haiti, and the outpouring of requests for help, shows many of the difficulties facing donors in making a philanthropic decision. Would it be better to give to the American Red Cross, which lets you text a small donation? Or to Doctors Without Borders, which is working to help those injured in the quake despite damage to its own medical facilities? Or to a smaller group on the ground that has less name recognition here? Which group will make the most difference in that impoverished country over the long term?

“We as Americans like to do things immediately,” says GuideStar President Bob Ottenhoff. “But a lot of the problems in Haiti, they have been experiencing for years or for decades. We learned this from Hurricane Katrina—the initial surge of support isn’t sufficient.”

For donors, then, the best approach is to think about your philanthropic giving more along the lines of how you view your investment portfolio. That means thinking through the big questions first (what matters to you?), and then drilling down to those groups that are doing the best work. The new rating efforts take different approaches to answering the second part of that.

GiveWell, launched in 2007, offers rigorous Wall Street-like research on nearly 400 charities, in which it tries to determine how effective they are. Few charities have enough data or analysis to provide such proof, and GiveWell only recommends those that can. “The charity needs to do a lot of analysis on its own,” says GiveWell co-founder Holden Karnofsky. “It sounds like common sense, but it is also the most difficult question to answer.” The upshot: GiveWell recommends just nine charities.

Root Cause has begun doing similar research reports, though geared toward financial advisers. Its first batch of research covers educational groups in Massachusetts. GreatNonprofits, also started in 2007, allows donors, volunteers, and social-service recipients to write reviews à la TripAdvisor or Yelp; it currently has reviews of some 3,000 not-for-profits.
Portfolios of Not-for-Profits

Philanthropedia, which recently launched, garners the opinions of experts in different sectors and creates what it calls “expert mutual funds,” portfolios of not-for-profits in areas such as climate change or microfinance with a dozen or so holdings in each. Partners for Change is also working up a mutual-fund-like approach, though its concept will mimic the portfolios of successful foundations in certain areas. Executive Director Jim Litwin says that he expects to launch in the summer, so that advisers will be prepared to roll out the offerings to clients in the fall giving season. Litwin hopes that by targeting advisers, rather than individuals directly, he will be able to reach donors with $10,000 or more to give, rather than the smaller amounts that many give online. As Litwin says: “These foundations have already done all the work on what the most effective organizations are, so why can’t you leverage that knowledge of where to give?”

Consider how Charity Navigator is rethinking its star rating system under the direction of Ken Berger, its executive director since June 2008. With star ratings on 5,500 charities and some 4 million hits to the site each year, Charity Navigator is the biggest of the online philanthropy rating agencies, and sets the tone for how individuals think about their giving. From its 2001 founding until recently, however, it had rated charities largely on financial benchmarks—and given them high marks for low overhead, a metric that academic research now shows is not that helpful in evaluating a nonprofit’s work. The new star system, which will still go from zero to four stars, will include measures of financial strength, accountability, and effectiveness. Berger says he hopes to roll out the new ratings in the spring of 2011, with additional information appearing between now and then. “The core concept is to look at this as a social investment, like a stock with a certain level of risk,” Berger says. “So the rating we are looking to develop revolves around risk—what is the level of risk that you as a donor are willing to take on?”

The bigger question—and ultimately the bigger opportunity—is how these new efforts to rate charities and to influence donors’ decisions will impact the way that philanthropies themselves operate. The hope among those who are launching these efforts is that if not-for-profits knew that their programs weren’t working that well, they would revamp them based on that information. Also, if more of that $200 billion ends up going to the most effective charities, it could push the least effective ones to rethink what they’re doing. “We’re starting to see a shakeout now,” says Nancy Kelly, an accountant at the Metis Group, who has focused on not-for-profits for 25 years. “You’re seeing more competition for dollars and more merger activity than in the past 15 years. It is forcing nonprofits to look at their operations like a business.”

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Twitter Creator Reveals Square Mobile-Pay Device

February 18th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted in Social Media

Paris, France (CNN) — Twitter creator Jack Dorsey Wednesday gave the first public demonstration of his hotly-anticipated latest venture — a device to allow credit card payments by cell phone — and revealed it would be given away for free.

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Details of “Square” — a card reader which plugs into the headphone socket of most mobile devices — have been circulating on the Internet since it was announced earlier this month, but little has been known about how it works or who it was aimed at.

However, Dorsey — whose microblogging Web site has proved hugely popular but not hugely profitable since launching in March 2006 — gave no explanation on how he would make money from his new creation, beyond revealing there would be a per-transaction charity donation.

Square, a tiny cube about an inch in length, contains a magnetic strip reader that allows users to swipe and read credit cards, then deduct payment on or offline through a downloaded application that communicates with card issuers in the same way as retailer devices.

Customers then use their finger on the phone’s touch-recognition screen to sign their name to the transaction.

Dorsey, Twitter’s co-founder and chairman, says the device, scheduled for launch on iPhones and iPods in March 2010, was inspired partly by the “immediacy, approachability and transparency” of Twitter and by the global economic crisis which has exposed a need for a radical rethink of the financial sector.

“The financial world is amazing right now because there’s a clean slate. A lot of these industries are looking for something very small and innovative,” he said during the gremlin-hit demonstration of his device at LeWeb, a major Internet forum in Paris.

“My co-founder is a glass artist. He sells things that people don’t need — $2,000 glass faucets. They’re beautiful. If he could not take credit cards, he wouldn’t make the sale because no one carries around $2,000 in the cash.

“So we looked at it. Ninety percent of the U.S. has moved to credit cards, but it’s still very difficult to accept them.”

Dorsey said he considered a number of options in developing Square, including using cell phone cameras and character recognition software to read images of the credit card.

“The other thing we looked at is the audio jack — and it’s on Macbooks, desktop PCs, BlackBerries and Androids. We built this hardware. It’s a self-powered swiper. Powered by the magnetic power of the swipe itself, converts it to an audio signal, which the software interprets.”

Dorsey, who joked he had pocketed $650 by allowing potential business partners to road test the device with their own credit cards, said Square was currently being beta tested in a handful of major U.S. cities by a cross-section of small business users.

“We’re trying with a bunch of different profiles of folks in New York, San Francisco, LA and St. Louis, Missouri. There are piano teachers, flight instructors, and coffee shops. It can be used in a retail store like Apple, all the way down to Craigslist or paying me back for that dinner you owe me.”

Dorsey said his developers were still working to ensure the device was fraud proof.

By Barry Neild, CNN
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Crossover Learnings Between Email And Social Media

February 18th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted in Email, Social Media

by Chad White

What Email Can Learn from Social Networks

Expressing personality. Most brands can no longer afford to be faceless entities. The interactivity and transparency of the Internet has elevated the need for personality. Luckily, there are several ways to do this: You can use an executive as TigerDirect does, staff members like Crutchfield, or your customers like REI. The most poignant expression of personality I’ve seen recently is Backcountry’s memorial message for skier Shane McConkey.

Expressing a sense of community. People want discounts and helpful information, but many also want to be part of a community. Including product testimonials from product reviews on your site is one way to do this. Backcountry goes a step further and highlights its top contributors in its monthly newsletter.

Mark Brownlow of Email Marketing Reports recently suggested another way to build a community feel: adding social proof to your email sign-up process, such as a running count of how many subscribers you have. Thanks to blogs, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, subscriber counts are a well-established and highly promoted measurement of legitimacy and influence. I haven’t seen anyone try this yet, but the idea is intriguing.

What Social Networks Can Learn from Email

Providing exclusivity. Email subscribers appreciate it when they get exclusive deals and information not available to your Web site visitors. It helps justify them sharing their email address with you. With social networks, there’s a similar dynamic. Some people will ask themselves, “Why should I bother to be a fan if the announcements and other content are available on your Web site or to email subscribers?”

There’s value to making information available via different channels — being channel-agnostic is great m– but if you want to get people to engage with you via multiple channels, then the experience has to be different. Indeed, people expect to have a different experience with your brand via Facebook vs. Twitter vs. email, for instance.

Explaining the benefits of joining. Just as email sign-ups suffer when you don’t explain the benefits of receiving your emails, your “Find us on Facebook” or “Follow us on Twitter” call-to-action put the burden on your customers to explore the benefits themselves. Quickly listing the key benefits can be effective in getting people motivated to take action. In a recent email, Fingerhut did a good job of selling the benefits for engaging with the company on Facebook and Twitter.

Driving subscribers to other channels
. Providing customers with many avenues to take advantage of offers and exposing them to different channels has well-established benefits. Just as email programs aren’t maximizing their opportunity when they drive traffic solely to the Web, self-contained social networks are destined to underperform. Look for occasions to expose customers to multiple channels. Sephora did that recently by asking email subscribers to share a digital gift (a tote bag) with their Facebook friends; if they did that, they could get a real Sephora tote from their local store. But the most impressive utilization of a brand’s channels that I’ve seen recently was Buy.com and its Tweet n Seek contest, which had participants following them on Twitter, searching Buy.com, visiting their Facebook page, and reading products pages.

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Pockets of Philanthropy

February 18th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising

by Terry Burton

2009 will be a memorable year in nonprofit history. The national trends according to most media sources suggested that giving was down everywhere and that the sector was suffering a collective tragedy.

Not so.

Pockets of philanthropy thrived in a number of communities as if immune to the financial troubles. As the pages of history for 2009 came and went, the good news, the outstanding news of philanthropic joy burst through the curtain of despair and shone brightly.

The national trends I followed suggested that the number of gifts were down but the dollar amount of the gifts received was higher than in recent years. Isn’t that interesting?

Here are some examples of the Good News headlines I noticed in 2009:

Western Kentucky University announced record breaking giving
for the second half of 2009

New York Opera gala event tallied the largest giving ever to the event

Milwaukee United Way surpassed fundraising goal

North Carolina nonprofits doing well despite recession

Boys Scouts USA receive largest gift ever, $50 million

University of California, Santa Barbara $40 million in fundraising

University of Indiana raised a record $221.4 million in latest fiscal year

St. Paul’s School for Girls in Baltimore, reported $1 million gift, largest ever

Community Health Network, Indiana, received largest gift ever, $1 million

University of Minnesota reported the second best ever year on record for giving

Condell Hospital, Chicago, received largest gift ever, $1 million

University of Kansas set record in number of gifts and pledges

Cazenovia College received largest gift ever, $2 million

University of Michigan, Dearborn received largest alumni gift ever of $2 million

Higher education remains the key sector of the nonprofit community. The notion of the Pockets of Philanthropy can be seen in the collection of GOOD NEWS announcements. And these do not include the surprise gifts and estate announcements that brought smiles to many fundraising teams.

2009 was a difficult year. Economic indicators just published in the last week of January 2010 report GNP was up over 4.75% for the last quarter of 2009, far ahead of projections. Momentum is building, more people are working and more jobs are being created. 2010 is already buzzing with big gifts.

This report is a part of my new publication: Survey of Major Gifts & Philanthropy – 2009, coming in February 2010.

For more information please contact Terry Burton at Dig In Research
Web site: http://diginresearch.biz Telephone:  248-438-8064  Email: tburton@diginresearch.biz

Email Open Rates in Q4 2009

February 18th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted in Email

Email open rates increased 5.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009 versus the fourth quarter of 2008, according to the Q4 2009 North America Email Trends and Benchmarks report published by marketing services firm Epsilon.

The quarterly analysis is compiled from more than 7 billion emails sent by Epsilon in October, November and December 2009, across multiple industries and approximately 170 participating clients. The analysis combines data from Epsilon’s proprietary platforms, DREAM and DREAMmail. Additional highlights from the study include the following:

• average click rate was 5.9 percent, up slightly from the same time last year (5.8 percent);

• during the high-volume holiday season, the average volume per client increased 25.8 percent from last quarter and 9.8 percent from last year;

• Epsilon’s client base had a 94.1 percent inbox deliverability rate for Q4 across a sample of U.S. and Canada commercial email; and

• nine of the 13 industries tracked saw increases in open rates over Q4 2008, and two of the 13, consumer products goods and consumer services telecommunications, reported increases in all three metrics — opens, clicks and nonbounce rate — compared to last year.

25 Ways to Improve Your Direct Mail

February 18th, 2010 | 1 Comment | Posted in Fundraising

1. Write the call to action before you do anything else. It’s very un-Zen to say it, but fundraising is more about the destination than the journey. You’re going to arrive a lot more successfully when you know exactly where you’re going.

2. Think of 25 reasons why a donor should give to you. Then, get rid of all the reasons that are about you and not the donor.

3. Ask, “How would The National Enquirer write this?” The Enquirer knows the value of the amazing, the lurid, the outrageous, the unexpected — and it milks it. Are you doing that, or are you imitating “respectable” journalism, purposely keeping it as colorless and purely factual as possible? Guess which approach gets more readership — and raises more funds.

4. Ignore your brand guidelines. Your brand guidelines are meant to sharpen and define your message and make it consistent. But there’s a fatal flaw: The guidelines are all about you, not about your donors. They’re all about self-?focused communication, and that will hurt your fundraising. How can I say that, never having seen your brand guidelines? I’ve read a lot of nonprofit brand documents and not yet have seen one that’s nontoxic to fundraising.

5. Show, don’t tell. You’ve heard this in every creative-writing class you’ve ever taken. It’s good advice. It’s easy to assert that something is sad, or great, or special, or cutting-edge. It’s more persuasive to give the facts that add up to those things.

6. Overdo it. Be too dramatic. Too emotional. Too strong. Eight times out of 10, you’ll realize later that you didn’t overdo it at all. The other two times — well, it’s a lot easier to tone it down than it is to pump up weak and underdone copy.

7. Use your data. You know quite a bit about the people you’re writing to — their names, their cities, what and when they’ve given, and more. Use these facts to make your copy more personal and relevant. Just make sure you don’t sound awkward and robotic.

8. Flunk your English teachers. They meant well and taught you many useful things, but not everything they taught was useful. Paragraphs don’t have to start with topic sentences. Passive voice is not all that bad. Neither are sentence fragments.

9. Repeat yourself. Whatever it is that you want people to do, tell them that thing again and again and again. Repeat yourself because you don’t know if they ?understood or even noticed it the first and second ?times. Repeat yourself because hardly anyone ?starts at the beginning and reads straight through to the end.

10. Annoy yourself. You are not your donor. That’s one of the most important truths you can know, and it has a dramatic side effect: Messages that motivate donors very often will turn you off. Learn to make your own distaste a good barometer for effective fundraising.

11. Use a cliché or two. There’s a reason clichés catch on. They express things that people often want to express — in short (and sweet) ways that are easy (as pie) to remember. Fundraising isn’t creative-writing class; you aren’t going to lose points for lack of ?originality. However, you will get extra credit for motivating more people to give.

12. Use fewer adjectives and adverbs. If your nouns and verbs aren’t doing the job, adjectives and adverbs are not going to pick up the slack. Well-placed ?modifiers can add zing. But most of the time, they just make the copy harder to read — and make you sound like a huckster.

13. Omit huge numbers. Donors don’t want to solve a problem because it’s big. They want to solve it because it’s solvable. Yes, 24,000 children die from hunger-?related causes every day. That’s a mind-boggling fact. The fact that it’s mind-boggling is exactly why it’s a poor fundraising platform. Give donors the opportunity to save one life, and then another and another.

14. Use wrong grammar. I’m not suggesting you be churlish and deliberately make stupid mistakes. But sometimes getting it right makes you come across as a schoolmarm, which, unless you’re an actual schoolmarm, is pretty unsympathetic. For instance, correct use of “whom” doesn’t sound natural to most people (and it’s probably dropping out of English). Any correct grammar that people don’t commonly use in speech is a candidate for flouting. And if that’s too painful, just revise so you avoid the issue.

15. Replace at least one paragraph that’s about you. Instead, make it one that is about your reader.

16. Limit paragraphs to seven lines. Long paragraphs are forbidden territory. Anything more than seven lines is long. Most paragraphs should be one to four lines.

17. Break up long sentences. Long sentences are the main cause of thick, unreadable prose. Any sentence more than 20 words is probably too long. Keep ?sentences closer to 10 words. Or less. Really.

18. Read your copy out loud. This is one of the best ways to make sure your copy is clear, colloquial and easy to read. If you stumble while reading, sound pompous or arrogant, or just come across as an idiot, your copy needs more work.

19. Cut your first paragraph. I’m not kidding. It’s like magic. Most likely, your first paragraph is a warm-up — and your real lead is your second or even third paragraph. Give it a try. It’s one of the quickest and most surefire copy revisions I know.

20. Make the letter longer. I know you wouldn’t read a long letter. Neither would I. For all we know, nobody reads long letters anymore. But we do know long letters work. Every time I’ve tested this (except once a few years ago), longer letters worked better than shorter ones. Add another page, and you’ll almost surely get more response.

21. Use photos sparingly — but use them. They say a picture is worth a thousand words (personally, I think it’s more like 600). So use those pictures carefully. Too often we use photos that might as well be saying ?”lobster” a thousand times. Make sure the photos you use tell the same story as the words you write.

22. Underline stuff. And use bold. And italics. Emphasis and variation are great for readability. Just don’t overdo it, because too much emphasis turns out to be no emphasis at all.

23. Use black serif type over a white background. Any variation from this — sans-serif type, white type over color, even black type over a tint, colored type — will degrade the reading comprehension of your donors. This advice will make some designers very unhappy, but it’s a simple reality.

24. Use 13-point type for body copy. Hey, your donors wear bifocals. Almost every one of them. Would you rather be part of their daily struggle to read small type or a strain-free oasis in their day? Which choice do you think will make them more likely to respond?

25. Bypass most of your reviewers. Committees kill fundraising, systematically draining life and power from anything they touch, while bulking up the ?message with irrelevancies and worse. That’s just ?the way committees are. Work without committees, and you’ll see improvements — to your copy and ?your revenue.

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