On the internet, carry salt

I subscribe to a ton of services that help me scour the internet, looking for good articles, tips, research and advice on fundraising and nonprofit management more generally.  Look – I’m living proof that anyone can say pretty much anything on the internet…but every now and then an article comes along that gets my blood boiling and I feel the need to remind everyone I know that you have to take everything with a grain of salt and read it through a lens of common sense and skepticism.

Here’s one that seems useful for nonprofits.  Research reveals four simple ways your not-for-profit can motivate donors. Headline follows the formula for standard click bait: [number] of [things] that are useful because [x].  Plus, it’s based on research!  Great.  Let’s look. Read more

Quick Tips: Year-End starts now

Dear Fundraisers – welcome to the last quarter of the calendar year!  Odds are you have a plan for an elaborate and integrated direct mail/email/social media campaign to bring in as much as you can from donors before that all important IRS deadline on December 31.

I’ll do a longer post, someday, perhaps with guest blogging from some of my designer friends, on how to tweak your year end pieces to stand out from the crowd without breaking the bank.  But I do have a great way to improve your year end results.  Want to hear it? Read more

Quick Tips: Wordle

In my consulting work, I spend a lot of time on storytelling.  If you want to figure out a strategy forward, it helps to have everyone who’s involved with your organization agree on who you are and what you do now…and getting stakeholders to tell their personal and institutional narrative is a great start towards that agreement.

One of the things I frequently do after getting a bunch of people to write down answers to a few questions (nothing particularly complex – things like “how would you describe your organization to a friend?” and “what are the values of your organization in 140 characters or less”) is run those answers through Wordle.

Professionally, I must advise you not to take any leadership or strategy advice from Captain Ahab.
Professionally, I must advise you not to take any leadership or strategy advice from Captain Ahab.

People think it’s magic. Read more

Quick Tips: Shake up your mailing calendar

A lot of folks use the summer to plan their full calendar of mailings.  Are you still sending two big mailings a year, once in December, to capitalize on the tax year ending, and once in the late Spring, before the summer but a reasonable distance from that holiday mailing?

You’ve got plenty of company, which may offer some comfort…but a lot of folks in nonprofit management positions (including development) tend to be very risk averse, so “best practices” and “wisdom of the masses” tend to get conflated.

You don’t NEED to shake things up.  But maybe you should.   Read more

Mailbag: Recipe for Alienating Your Donors

Q: I just got a “thank you” note from my kid’s school that is such a ridiculous form letter that I don’t think I’ll ever donate to them again.

Dear : Thank you so much for supporting with your generous gift to the Annual Giving Campaign. Your tax-deductible gift of $20 will have a tremendous impact on and her classmates.

In fact, when my 10 year old saw it, she asked “Is that sarcastic?  It’s kind of mean.”

I get that there’s an absurdity to fundraising etiquette, but…are they being sarcastic?   Read more