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Newsletters
2014
14.10: The Ugly Truth
Is "prettiness" cost effective?
14.11: Competent on purpose -- PART 1
What every fundraiser should know about donor comms, IMHO
14.12: Competent on purpose -- PART 2
What every fundraiser should know about donor comms, IMHO
14.13: Competent on purpose -- PART 3
What every fundraiser should know about donor comms, IMHO
14.14: "Dear Numbskull Robot...." My name's Tom, not Thomas
How MoveOn.org stupidly and avoidably lost me as a donor
14.15: Online giving soars to almost nothing
There was a massive amount of little to report for another year; why print won't die
14.4: Part 1 - Dr. Adrian Sargeant's 7 principles of donor loyalty
Charities that get straight A's in 7 things reap the rich rewards of contented donors.
14.5: Part 2 - Dr. Adrian Sargeant's 7 principles of donor loyalty
Charities that get straight A's in 7 things reap the rich rewards of contented donors.
14.6: Part 3 - Dr. Adrian Sargeant's 7 principles of donor loyalty
Charities that get straight A's in 7 things reap the rich rewards of contented donors.
14.7: Part 4 - Dr. Adrian Sargeant's 7 principles of donor loyalty
Charities that get straight A's in 7 things reap the rich rewards of contented donors.
14.8: Part 5 - Dr. Adrian Sargeant's 7 principles of donor loyalty
Charities that get straight A's in 7 things reap the rich rewards of contented donors.
14.9: Will good grammar save us?
Your 10th-grade English teacher was right ... about nothing related to sales.
2013
13.01: Composing a satisfying thanks: Wikipedia did
One way to build trust is by answering questions before they're asked.
13.02: Know thy customer ... Who's buying you?
Customer satisfaction. Customer knowledge. Serious marketers obsess over them. But not fundraisers.
13.03: Want to deepen your "culture of philanthropy"? That requires adding so-called "social information" to your messaging stew.
Social Information = Donor Growth Hormone
13.04: Bequests -- The other white meat?
"Planned giving" might well be a major marketing misstep....
13.05: What things make me generous? Confessions of a donor.
Speaking from the heart.... Why I give
13.06: Confessions of a donor ... part 2!
"Donors spotted near deep-ocean hydrothermal vent..." What do we really know about them?
13.07: The charity newsletter: Friend or foe?
Getting past your unprofitable fears
13.08: We're looking at advertising the wrong way
Proposed: A new set of messages for nonprofits
13.09: Major gifts or more gifts: Which is better?
When "tomorrow comes" will your nonprofit still be in the same uncertain financial shape? That depends.
13.10: "Poverty Porn": they know not what they say
"Idiot savants." Minus the savants.
13.11: "Trust me, kid. This is worth its weight in gold."
6 true things
13.12: Sean Triner on Direct Mail
The room stilled. Sean picked up the microphone....
13.13: Maybe it's the desert air....
Selling the unspeakable
13.14: In defense of the endangered indent
The special "decline of Western civilization" edition....
13.15: As "giving season" thuds our way ....
One small resolution...
13.16: Workers of the nonprofit world, unite! Pretty please?
Revolution ouch?
14.1: Fundraising is about money. And the moon's a hunk of stinky green cheese.
Breaking news from Bratislava...
14.2: Do you retain or do you renew?
14.3: What I learned in 2013
2012
12.01: Following in the footsteps of your promise
They chose your charity for a reason, when they gave that first time. Your donor newsletter should reflect, not neglect, that reason.
12.02: Charity newsletters
Extraordinary experiences ... for the rest of us.
12.03: The brain according to me
Neuroscience is the most important force at work in fundraising today. Or it should be.
12.04: Cheryl and Kathy ask good grassroots questions
About donor newsletters & more
12.05: Why we put a lot of charity in our will
The secret life of donors
12.06: Are thanks really necessary?
Some experts say, "No."
12.07: Readers of this newsletter rise in defense of thanking the heck out of donors. Trinkets get the boot.
No thanks? "No, thanks!"
12.08: "Dear Thomas..." or "Dear Tom..."
How would you like to be addressed? Does your favorite charity's database know the difference? Probably not.
12.09: What role do e-newsletters play in fundraising?
They're lousy at bringing in donations, a veteran copywriter observes.
12.10: Now entering the fundraising arena: the next big generation of donors. In the US, they will be ages 55-75.
Rise of the baby boomers -- again?
12.11: So, there!
Email newsletters don't get results? Some highly indignant email fans beg to powerfully differ.
12.12: The person signing your appeal might wonder...
Why does good direct mail sound so weird?
12.13: It's the wrong answer to a great question. So let's do something else.
Elevator speech? Ride to nowhere.
12.14: Tell little stories all over the place. The human mind laps that stuff up.
Notes from neuroscience
12.15: "Non-profit?"
Donors have no idea what you do with their money. And frankly? They suspect the worst!!!
12.16: Meet Jane
Your "One size fits all ages" appeals ignore a juicy fact: a 70-something is way different than a 50-something.
12.17: Look, your newsletter is in fact a "customer service experience"
And the content donors like to read? It's what charities so rarely say.
12.18: The Warren Buffett lesson
A printed annual report is a different experience than an online annual report, for a couple of reasons.
2011
11.01: The nuts and guts of a successful bequest-sales strategy
Proper bequest marketing, per Radcliffe, part 2
11.02: A troubled mind walks into a bar
A few things I want to get off my fat-flated chest, as 2011 ignites.
11.03: The 5 Realizations Approach
Finding the Path to Donor Nirvana
11.04: Most donor communications do not achieve anything like the desired results, thanks to an error as common as salt in sea water
The Hidden Killer - A Simple Misunderstanding
11.05: B4 u do yr annual report
Repeat after me: "I am a marketer!" And consider a few donor-friendly models, for inspiration.
11.06: "Dear donors: We're happy to say, we have switched to a digital annual report."
Happy? R U really so sure?
11.07: How a $1,000 gift was born
Does your staff know what to say to strangers, should the occasion arise?
11.08: Which is your next priority, younger donors or boomers?
An infatuation with younger donors can distract you from the real work at hand: cultivating boomers as they start their bell lap.
11.09: Is that your future calling?
Lately, my crystal ball is waking me up ... with unnerving predictions
11.10: Playing to lose
What happens when know-nothings are allowed to outvote the fundraiser? A sure-fire recipe for failure.
11.11: Social Information: A gentle nudge in the right direction
Dr. Sargeant finds that the mere mention of what another donor gave leads to copycats & increased giving
11.12: You're selling forest. You're not selling trees.
Donors give to the mission. If you're getting great results, feel free to spend their gifts as you see fit. (Though Charity Navigator might disagree.)
11.13: Meet AIDA: the sales formula, not the opera
This oldie but goody makes writing a direct mail letter faster and far easier.
11.14: The Verbatim Rule
You know, it just makes sense.
11.15: In direct mail, all responses, even complaints, are good
Hoping you'll offend no one? That's the wrong star to wish on.
11.16: The "planned giving" newsletter: Does anyone really need these things?
Pity the trees that died in the pursuit of lackluster results.
11.17: The Domain Formula for donor newsletters
Certified Proven (unlike the others)
2010
10.01: Idiot's guide to time management
I fidget, you fidget, we all fidget.
10.02: Donor profiles in your newsletters: Worth the trouble?
They can lead to bigger things ... or nowhere. You decide.
10.03: Young heads are different heads
Are younger donors alive ... or dead to you?
10.04: Is direct mail dead? (No, it's just dull.)
My goal? Entertain the heck out of the reader.
10.05: "I'll never give you a penny again!" Music to my ears.
Here's a terrific direct mail concept the client refused to try. Take it if you want ... and if you dare.
10.06: Your strategic plan = your case for support?
No! Don't! "The bridge is out"!!!
10.07: Oh, man, did Dale Carnegie have it right.
How to win friends and influence people: Donor bequest edition...
10.08: Why gifts matter
They buy impact and self-esteem
10.09: Why, oh why, don't they trust you?
"Because I don't pee like Jesus."
10.10: How to produce powerful case statements
Approvals, the delicate art of
10.11: Connecting gift and impact
The 2 dots that matter
10.12: The outrageous Mr. Radcliffe wishes a word
Bequest marketing the right way
2009
9.01: Does your boss or board chair get to approve your stuff? Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.
Sad but true: Most donor communications are built to fail
9.02: If your paper newsletter is a flop, switching to electronic won't help.
Two key questions answered about newsletters
9.03: I just wrote a couple of appeals for a big hospital. This time I took notes. Here's how to get a better letter.
Your next direct mail appeal: Will it burst into song?
9.04: "Deserving charity"? There's no such thing.
No one owes you a gift, as this "inside a donor's mind" report makes clear.
9.05: Take the Donor-Centered Pledge (or die)
23 rules to live by (instead)
9.06: Straight to trash? The avoidable, sad fate of most annual reports
Entertain me with stories. Put stats in perspective.
9.07: Writing a fabulous case is easy
You're just answering questions
9.08: Bill's amazing "Warm Words" campaign
Bill Pratt decided to raise something other than money for once, and joyous response flooded in
9.09: A campaign case is a series of talking points
Report from the front lines
9.10: The perfect "eventless" fundraising event
Arts charity raises money year round: Pick a day, any day. And fund it.
9.11: Are you a funds-raiser or a funds-depleter?
Basing your metrics on acquisition is like trying to bail a boat with a sieve. You work hard, but you still sink.
9.12: Dr. Sargeant says you're only doing half your job
And he has the data to prove it.
9.13: Release your inner archer: Learn to shoot message arrows
Targets? The vulnerable hearts and curious minds of your donors
9.14: Valuable direct mail concept absolutely free
Do you have the guts to try something different? My client didn't.
9.15: Deciding what goes into your donor newsletter
Here's the easiest explanation I've ever come up with
9.16: Qualityspotting
How do you know when your donor materials are strong enough for the outside world?
2008
8.01: Acquiring new donors through direct mail: Measuring success
Measuring donor acquisition programs
8.02: Why is giving by bequest so rare in the U.S.?
Reviving your "death brochure"
8.03: Would you buy a mattress from this charity?
What you do vs. why you matter
8.04: How to write a good donor-centric headline
Writing a winning headline
8.05: Does your stuff suffer from jargon breath?
Adopt a zero-jargon policy and you'll raise more money
8.07: What is news?
Making donor news the right way
8.08: Obama's Web 3.0 campaign: Rewarding role model? Or risky distraction?
Are e-newsletters dead?
8.09: Richard Radcliffe has your back
Are you marketing bequests? (Right.) Or "planned gifts"? (Wrongo.)
8.10: When you're feeling a little irrelevant...
Do you know the real you? The one donors really care about? Likely not, thanks to the "curse of knowledge." But there's an easy way (fun, too) to see yourself anew. Read on.
8.11: The dirty truth about cases
Bitter truth? Maybe a quarter of the cases I'm hired to write never reach the finish line. Interesting tale, that.
8.12: Why won't paper die?
Everyone's drumming their fingers, waiting for paper to expire as a communications medium. Sorry.
8.13: Can direct mail be a cash cow for smaller nonprofits? Think "cash calves" instead.
Mass-market expectations yield disappointing results at local levels. Take heart, though: direct mail is about far more than instant cash.
8.14: "Hi. My name's Inertia. And I'll be disappointing you from this day forward. I know you have many obstacles to surmount, so I'm thrilled that you've named me Number One."
Meet the enemy: Inertia
2007
2006
2005
2004
2003
3.01: Analytical types: Good to the last objection
Part one of four personality types...
3.02: Amiables: Smile and say "Howdy!"
Part two of four personality types...
3.03: Expressives crave the new
Part three of four personality types...
3.04: Bottom-Liners leap to conclusions (and that's a good thing)
Part four of four personality types...
3.05: Are you interesting (especially to donors)?
Communications basics...
3.06: The Abraham Lincoln lesson
Case basics...
3.07: A surefire story formula
Case basics...
11.17: The Domain Formula for donor newsletters
Certified Proven (unlike the others)
In the 1990s, a Seattle fundraising shop called the Domain Group took the garden-variety donor newsletter, stripped it down to its components, and began testing ... to see if they could come up with something better. Sort of like rebuilding a hot rod.

Domain eventually developed a formula that made a donor newsletter HIGHLY worth doing: some Domain clients began raking in more gifts through their newsletters than through their direct mail appeals.

Domain had its hot rod. Think about that a moment.

How could a newsletter make more money than an appeal? A newsletter isn't an ask. Appeals make the ask.

Answer: A newsletter might well be more welcome than an appeal. It can bring joy. It can bring fun. It can take the reader on a journey (an Adrian Sargeant idea). It can flatter the reader shamelessly, in all sorts of ways (deeply recommended).

Whereas a direct mail appeal almost always seems like "duty calling" ... not to mention an intrusion, with the intention of relieving my wallet of its burdens.

What Domain achieved ... and then freely told the world about ... was a remarkable feat. More money through newsletters ... hmmmmm, I say, what a novel idea!?!

The Domain Formula demonstrated that newsletters could produce significant revenue as well as good will. Key features of the formula include:

  • Page count: no more than 4 pages (in tests, adding more pages did not produce more revenue)
  • Article length: short
  • Write for skimmers (i.e., requires professional quality headlines)
  • Send in a #10 envelope, not as a self-mailer
  • Include a separate reply device
  • Don't get distracted: be fully donor-committed. Send only to your donors. You have to talk to a single target audience
  • Make the voice personal (the word "you" dominates) rather than institutional; get intimate
  • Focus on "accomplishment reporting" (tell donors how much they have changed the world through their gifts)

Domain ... or the highway? Is the Domain Formula the only way to go? Probably not. But it is, to my knowledge, the only tested way to go.

Let's return to the last ... and most important item ... on the Domain Formula list: accomplishment reporting. [That was Domain's name for it. You call it what you want. The "You Are Wonderful, Dear Donor Report" is the real name.]

Donors want above all just one kind of information from their charities, research shows. Your donors humbly beg to know, "How much good did I do? I sent you a gift. Did my charity make a difference? Am I helping to do something important?"

Most charities never get around to talking about that in their newsletters. The charities instead want to talk about themselves.

You don't need 16 pages to answer the donors' only real question. In fact, 16 pages tend to muffle the answer. There's just too much stuff to look at and consider.

Do the SMIT

There's a very smart and accomplished Aussie fundraising consultant named Jonathon Grapsas. He introduced the idea of "the SMIT." SMIT is an acronym that stands for, "What's the Single Most Important Thing I have to tell you today?"

I have found "SMIT-thinking" highly useful.

I write my SMIT's on post-it notes.

Donor communications have to survive in a brutal world. People are not paying much attention.

Giving your donor just one thing to consider in your newsletter rather than, say, 10 things (you see that a lot) might be a welcome relief.
 
Copyright © 2005-2013, by Tom Ahern and Ahern Donor Communications, Ink. All rights reserved.
10 Johnson Road, Foster, RI 02825, Phone: 401-397-8104, Email: a2bmail@aol.com Twitter handle: thattomahern.