Which approach raises the most funds: (1) a well-argued appeal that explains the problem and offers statistical proof; or (2) an emotional appeal that tells a sad story? In short, which is better: stories or statistics?
Not trying to raise money with your newsletter? Think again: it's a "donor happiness meter."
Feel free to reprint, with attribution, articles from this website and Ahern's Love Thy Reader e-newsletter. Many already do. Please let your readers know that they can SUBSCRIBE to my e-newsletter for FREE. Thank you!
$1.5 million goal requires just 256 words of explanation
In lush tribute to the saying, "A picture's worth a thousand words," TMI - The Episcopal School of Texas has published a capital campaign brochure that uses just 256 words (plus some gorgeous photography) to make its case for support. When you throw in Q&As and a site plan, the word count inches up to just past 1,200. Still, it's a model of concision. Download PDF (view in spreads, two-up). Credits: Steve Herlich, chief advancement officer at the school; designer, Greenpoint Design; key photography, pro Ralph Mawyer, with a cover-shot assist from parent, Mary Ellen Herrera.
For universities, hospitals, foundations...
New for 2011: My workshop on "major gifts" comms
3 years in development; perfect for emerging from the "great recession"
I want to thank several universities, a couple of hospitals, a bunch of major community foundations, and a huge national advocacy group for letting me explore with them what it takes to "sell your story" to prospects of wealth.
Let's face it: it's been a tough couple of years. Major giving at one hospital chain I know dropped 70% in 2010.
Ahern how-to book chosen as elite major gifts "classic"
One of 39 chosen for The Signature Collection of Inst. for Charitable Giving
On Dec. 23, 2010, Jerry Panas wrote: "Seeing Through a Donor's Eyes has now been selected as a distinguished book in The Signature Collection of the Institute for Charitable Giving. Congratulations." The title is one of 39 chosen. The press materials go on to say, "There are countless books on fundraising. Many are quite good. A handful are very special. But in the area of major gifts and gift planning, there are precious few from which to choose. And an even smaller number that have stood the test of time and can be considered classics, of sui generis status. The Institute for Charitable Giving has attempted to assemble a roster of books it feels every major and planned giving professional will find productive and of particular relevancy."
A donor newsletter is born...
Take them on a journey
Houston Grand Opera mails its supporters a backstage tour
Researcher Adrian Sargeant advises organizations to take their supporters "on a journey," as a way of building relationships and loyalty. The Houston Grand Opera is doing just that, by means of this quarterly print newsletter. The content focuses on just four things: accomplishments, offers, building trust, and copious amounts of "donor love." See for yourself.
This is one of the best annual reports I know
Landmark AR is in
For three straight years, Sallie Mitchell has helmed the annual report at the Fairfield County Community Foundation.
She's a rare bird in the nonprofit world: a practitioner who came out of the FOR-profit sector, where marketing chops are honored and lack of success is humiliated. Real marketers (like Sallie) represent the opposite of today's "everyone gets a trophy, just for participating" environment. They want to win! Here is her latest annual report, with my comments.
Report from the direct mail frontlines
I have this lovely client
A large hospital system lets me write pretty much whatever I want
So, with their permission, I've been exploring the limits of donor-centricity, writing full-body flattery baths. And the results are in. On average, their routine donor renewal appeals (no special campaigns, no end of year) in the past brought in a 4% response; they mail several of these routine renewals each year. But .... here's the great news ... the new, no-holds-barred, donor-centric letter brought in a 6.7% response in the same role: a 75% improvement in response, by merely focusing on the supreme importance of donors.
A reader asks...
"How's our newsletter?"
As ever, headlines make the difference
Tulsa's wonderful Jayne L. Reed, cofounder of the Simon Estes Educational Foundation, sent her latest newsletter, asking for comments. My advice to Jayne:
If I would say anything, it's this: make your newsletter's headlines much more donor-centric -- and clearer, too.
Let me slip into workshop mode for a moment. Headlines are a reader convenience. They exist to summarize the gist of the story, so that a quickly browsing reader doesn't have to read the article. The best test of a headline's functionality is this: cover the article and show the headline to somebody who doesn't know the story and ask them to tell you what the story's about. If they can, then it's a successful headline. If they can't, then the headline needs a rewrite.
A reader writes...
Where's the growth?
Which nonprofit sector will be hiring fundraising copywriters?
"Hi, Tom, Wondering if you would weigh in on this question: Do you think one non-profit niche is more promising than others? Where do you see the most opportunity for copywriters/marketing types who wish to work with non-profits: Education? Health? Social issues? Others?"
I think great opportunities will emerge in two very big sectors: health care and higher education.