What every fundraiser should know about donor comms, IMHO
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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.
A reader writes...
"How donor-centric ARE we?"
"After all, 'only' one-quarter of our support is philanthropic"
This fundraiser wants to be wall-to-wall donor-centric. But she's not sure she has the right to talk that way. After all, she writes, "only" one-quarter of the agency's income is from donors of any sort, individuals or foundations. The other 3/4s derives from government funding.
I asked, "Is this really a conundrum?" My point: "If you are getting a quarter of your income from donors, I would call that a heavy philanthropic piece of the pie (vs., say, 2%). That's point A.
A reader writes...
Feelings come first; being right runs last
I’m a regular reader of your newsletter and follower/borrower of your ideas. Your most recent issue (with the great subject line about “your approval process eats rats”) arrived with impeccable timing, so here is my much overdue thank-you.
Our organization is in the silent phase of a $[X] million capital campaign and my boss is working with a consultant on the campaign collateral. She asked me, and a few other folks, to review the materials but only well into the process (draft #5). The material is mediocre at best (with misspellings and punctuation errors), and at worst, it fails the “you” test. The donor barely appears in the material. I expressed my concerns and offered several suggestions I know would improve the material but my boss told me: “I have to go with the consultant. She’s the expert and that’s what we’re paying her for.”
I thought I had expressed myself to my boss in a mature, quiet, confident, professional way, but after reading your newsletter I realize that I made a crucial mistake.
While writing a book in France
Secret? Lots of hikes, immoderate amounts of wine
We're at the "other office" in France. Simone and I are both writing books, and a week of speaking in Amsterdam looms. If you're interested, we keep an online photo album.
What a workshop and a book in the right hands can do....
Income "more than doubles"
Memphis workers' justice charity sees donations through its newsletter rise, thanks to a few improvements
"I have been meaning to write you for some time to let you know how much attending one of your workshops and following your advice in Keep Your Donors has helped my organization." Read Rev. Rebekah's message.