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If you had more money ... you could do more good.
If you do better communications ... you will have more money.

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Stats as of early Nov 2011....

Donor Comm Nation

Linked In: 397 connections

Twitter: 258 followers

E-news: 4,838 subscribers

Facebook: 107 friends 

The call to action comes at 3:48 in the video....
SPCA of Wake County

Which is cuter? Puppies? Kittens? Or the entire staff of this gorgeous SPCA lip-synching an ABBA song? See for yourself. Recommended for your viewing pleasure by Barbara Center of the United Way of Pickens County. Her note: "Be prepared to tap your toes." My note: what an amazing way to offer an online tour of your facility. 

From the blog jungle....
Donor-centric tweets

Engineer-turned-copywriter, Karen Zapp, passes the "tell me something new and useful" test with flying colors, with her blog posting, "How to write donor-centric tweets...." If you're inching into social media, give this a quick look. Karen analyzes what's wrong with each example tweet, then rewrites it, so you can learn from the before-and-after. 

Ay Ziggy Zoomba...
Stroh Center Rap

Bowling Green State University thanks the key philanthropists that made their new basketball palace possible with a catchy (I played it 5 times in a row), sly (everybody brought their sense of humor to the shoot) video featuring freshman Mikey "Rosco" Blair, senior Rachel Willingham, and a team of generous alums. Read the comments, too. Weird. Thanks to Heather McGinness, CNM, CFRE, and Dir. of Library Development at Case Western Reserve for the tip!!!    

Good rant...
E-marketing is not enough (not even close)

Did you know that online advertising sovereign, Google, uses direct mail to drive sales, not email? That's the fact, Jack. In this ungentle blog post by Viken Mikaelian, fundraisers in thrall to the presumed potential of email gift appeals are given a sharp kick in the pants. Viken's post cites recent research, for instance, that indicates that young adults respond better to print campaigns (direct mail appeals and the like) than to email. Call it a quick reality check. 

Pop: 7 billion served...
Where in the world do you fit in?

Good one from Jeff Brooks: a link to a special calculator on the BBC website, where you can answer two burning questions: (1) what number am I in the grand scheme of things? and (2) how many people have lived before me? Couple of seconds, you'll know. I, for instance, am proud to say that I am the 2,462,290,662nd person alive on Earth. Put that on your business card.

Can you take the heat? Come into my kitchen...

Enter a gallery of frank critiques ... open solely for your error-avoiding, idea-stealing pleasure

NEW this issue: A community foundation report that is gloriously donor-centric and tells fascinating stories.

How critiquing works: Brave people send me samples of their donor comms, for a free, nitty-gritty - and public - critique.
From the incoming pool of submissions, I choose some of the more illustrative; I have the time to critique about a quarter of the incoming items right now. Then I post the critiqued materials on my website, as downloadable PDFs with pop-up comments the whole world can read. It is the most visited area on my website. 
In global fashion news: SOFII launches sleek, new look..
Once a week, visit this free site
SOFII offers you, for zero, zip, & free, examples of SUCCESSFUL donor communications from around the world that you can steal ... ahem,
learn ... from. I learn a new trick every time I visit. Like the giving string that increased average gifts $20. Don't be a stranger
Ahern live and usually wearing a tie... Upcoming speaking dates: View calendar for full schedule. 
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Ahern Communications web 

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Talking Points: Writing for a life (my blog, pure and simple-minded) 

Playing to lose

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What happens when know-nothings are allowed to outvote the fundraiser? A sure-fire recipe for failure.      

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I blinked. Yet the dreaded words didn't change.

 

"The internal team," the email stated, "has some concerns about the direct mail you wrote. We need to talk."

 

The internal team? Here we go again, said the frustrated little general in my brain. 

 

Fact: I know the résumés of this particular "internal team." I know that no one on this "internal team" has any training in direct mail. Not one iota. Which makes their opinions, ipso facto, professionally worthless.

 

Untrained staff and board cannot accurately judge professionally-crafted direct mail. It's impossible. Mailed appeals are a counter-intuitive enterprise, based on neuroscience, decades of testing, empiricism, and acquired skill sets of surprising depth and complexity. 

 

The opinions of the untutored simply do NOT count in direct mail. Quite the opposite: acting on untutored opinions can only decrease or eliminate income. Direct mail is a sales medium that brutally punishes presumptions. You either know what you're doing. Or you don't. And direct mail virgins guess wrong 110% of the time.

  

That doesn't mean an untrained internal review team is powerless. On the contrary: their silly, ignorant opinions can easily - often do - destroy any chance that a direct mail appeal will succeed. Makeshift, unfounded opinions ("We can't have a P.S. on our appeal. It's undignified." True story.) cost charities untold fortunes in unraised gifts around the world. I see it all the time.

 

I'm talking to you, Mr. Boss. I'm talking to you, Ms. Board Chair. And I'm talking to you, carping colleague. 

 

Personally, I insist on the Verbatim Rule. New clients looking for a direct mail writer must promise me that they will send out what I create without changing one word. 

 

It's the only sane policy. 

 

And that's also why I strongly advise that development directors have sole and tyrannical control over all donor communications.

 

No colleague veto. No boss veto. No board-chair veto. Again, it's the only sane policy

 

Let me repeat: ONLY the chief fundraiser gets to approve donor communications ... appeals, newsletters, and thanks. Period. No exceptions.

 

In a sane world.

 

.... And then there's real life ....

 

Remember the "internal team"?

 

They had three "concerns" with my direct mail appeal.

 

First, the boss was concerned that the letter didn't sound like him. So he was reluctant to sign it. "Could it be," he ventured, "written to sound more like me?"

 

If you think that this is a reasonable request, then you need to revisit a good how-to book like Mal Warwick's How to Write Successful Fundraising Letters or Jeff Brooks' groundbreaking new book on direct mail writing, out soon from Emerson & Church.

 

Direct mail doesn't "sound like" people.

 

For one thing, the machinery of persuasion is always grinding away in the background of a direct mail appeal. A competent writer is focused on inserting all sorts of emotional triggers that can lead to "yes." 

 

Also, there are loads of technical demands that must be met, for the appeal to raise the most it can: multiple asks on every page, for instance; and huge infusions of donor love.

 

People don't talk this way. So, no, Mr. Boss, it cannot "sound like you." This is not ventriloquism. A direct mail appeal is not your hand puppet. 

 

Second, the VP in charge of this client's education reform effort - which was the subject of this particular appeal - was concerned about the tone.

 

He didn't like the heavy use of the word "you" in the appeal. He wanted the charity's PR consultants to rewrite the letter ... in a proper, elevated corporate tone: "We did this great thing. We did that great thing." Impersonal.  

 

See, this is what I mean. This knucklehead's presumption about tone has been wrong since the beginning of fundraising - yet, he doesn't even suspect that truth.

 

Not only are people like this ignorant, because they don't know the subject at hand (how to properly talk to prospects and donors). People like this are also stupid, because they don't know that they don't know. 

 

And they're not just cute and annoying. They are toxins. If they were suddenly gifted with self-awareness, they'd fire themselves for incompetence. Instead, they congratulate themselves for sagacity. 

 

Finally, the new hire in production spoke up. He was concerned that the letter was too long. To lend weight to his opinion, he claimed to have direct mail experience.

 

Working for the Good Lord's House of Failure, I guess.

 

This ninny offered to take all my one-sentence paragraphs and bullet lists and everything else that made the letter easy to skim ... and pack it all down into tight, dense paragraphs, so the letter would fit on one page rather than two.

"And we'll save money on printing!"

I'll be blunt: what an idiot. And he's the new hire, so get used to it.

This is a big charity. It presents itself to its donors as a major change agent, a home for innovation and smarts.

And yet the "internal team has concerns."

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Talking about change in the cozy, self-congratulatory world of staff meetings - and actually welcoming the sometimes horrifying unknowns of change - are very different enterprises. One of my favorite fundraising analysts, Jonathan Grapsas, has some wise words on change inside nonprofits
simplifywriterwork TRepThesaurus_Homelesschange_open_mindlifeboat vainglorious  
Wear your heart on (or at least near) your sleeve
Let your clothes do the talking. Comfort food for the torso. T-shirts for the wordy wise. And smarty pants. And you can pick your own colors and style!
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How to write a case for support. Read the Kool-Aid.
Chapter 17: [the oft-quoted] Dance of the Four Veils
See what Amazon reviewers say...