3-Word Formula Guaranteed to Raise Money

3 Word Formula to Raise Money 300x226 3 Word Formula Guaranteed to Raise MoneyI consider these three words the holy trinity of fundraising success.

They are simple.

They are easy to remember.

They really work.

Plus, if you wrap them up with some emotional color, you’ve got an offer that can’t be refused.

Let’s take a look.Continue Reading

Foolproof Fundraising Trick Mom Knows and You Need

Mom scolding child 300x200 Foolproof Fundraising Trick Mom Knows and You Need
Do it because I said so!

I’m a huge fan of a too-little used tool when it comes to fundraising. It’s called behavioral neuroscience, and it’s pretty awesome stuff.

Moms use it all the time without evening thinking about it. Moms. Just. Know.

I’ll bet you even use it yourself. Unconsciously.

But what if you could use it intentionally to persuade prospective donors to say “yes” to investing in your cause? Or to give more often or with greater passion?

You can!

Today we’re going to talk about one foolproof way to get donors — and anyone — to do what you want them to do.

And it’s as simple as Mom saying “Because I said so!Continue Reading

Why No Pain Trumps Gain in Fundraising Offers

toddlers fighting over toy Why No Pain Trumps Gain in Fundraising Offers
We really can’t stand to lose things – it’s something bred into us early on.

I’m about to clairify a subtle but very important point about what motivates philanthropic giving. After all, that’s what the “Clairification” blog is all about.

It’s often said that people give to people.  So true.

But people are funny.

People will often give more to people who show them the pain that can be avoided through their gift rather than the people who show them the good that can be gained.

Seems counter-intuitive, right?

Absolutely. So here’s a little reminder that people don’t always behave as you might intuitively believe they would.  Which is why fundraising is part art and part science. And here’s something we know from the research:

Fear of loss weighs heavier than hope of gainContinue Reading

1 Big Donor Retention Secret: Giving is Not Always its Own Reward

maslow s hierarchy of needs 300x196 1 Big Donor Retention Secret: Giving is Not Always its Own Reward
What are you doing to give your donors the meaning they seek?

Donor needs vary and evolve, depending on where they are in their own life cycle and their life cycle with your nonprofit. Do you ever wonder how you might help them meet their needs? How you might reward them for giving?  You should — if you want to keep them as donors.

You may be familiar with Maslow’s “Theory of Human Motivation” where he breaks needs for human development and contentment down into steps that form a pyramid. Maslow suggests the basic human needs such as food, shelter, and sleep are required before you can pursue higher needs such as security, love and belonging, esteem and the need for self-actualization.

Sadly, just giving to charity doesn’t necessarily meet these higher-level needs. Donors may give out of guilt, fear, peer pressure (which doesn’t feel so good). Some give to be praised (meets esteem need, but only if you praise them). Some give to be accepted by peers (meets love & belonging need, but only if you offer opportunities to connect and feel loved)… and so forth. You see, giving is not always it’s own reward.

To create life-long donors imposes on your charity the obligation to do something proactive to fulfill your donor’s highest level needs.

Donors, like all human beings, are on a continual quest for meaning. It’s the existential search to be all that one can be. To feel self-actualized.

In non-psychological or theoretical terms, at the self-actualization pinnacle donors just feel darn good. They carry around a warm glow, representing the realization of their potential and inner peace.

This feeling is very powerful – and we human beings naturally seek it out. It’s one of reasons why even very poor give outsized proportions of their income to charity.

Another way to describe this is the search for meaning in life. For most people, meaning is deeply intertwined with community connections. Victor Frankl in his famous chronicle on the search for meaning wrote: love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Humans want to feel a sense of connection and a sense of purpose to life. Giving (time, money, and energy) is a central way that we strive to find meaning.

If your nonprofit doesn’t complete the exchange circuit for donors, their search for meaning gets cut short.

Continue Reading

Clairity Click-it: Keep Donors; Make a Case; Neuromarketing; Appeal Frequency + News to Use

Mouse mouse2 300x202 Clairity Click it: Keep Donors; Make a Case; Neuromarketing; Appeal Frequency + News to Use
Click it!

Want to keep more donors? This week’s Click-It will show you how in a number of different ways. Create magical experiences for supporters by taking a page from Disney. Craft a persuasive case for support by stepping into your donor’s shoes and asking yourself, and your team, some critical questions. Learn more about the importance of personalization by watching a video from Starbucks. Understand the psychology of the three different types of buyers (aka donors). And think critically about the number of appeals you send, and how this may help or hurt your donor acquisition, renewal and upgrade efforts. Plus you’ll find some “News You Can Use” (tons of really useful data and reports) at the bottom of this post.  To your success!

Keeping Donors

Click-It: How Disney Creates Magical Experiences (and a 70% Return Rate) from the Help Scout blog gives lessons you can apply to your nonprofit in order to enhance donor loyalty and retention. Walt viewed his theme parks almost as “factories” that produced delight and entertainment. What does your organization do to create a customer service culture that will delight your supporters? Long before Hillary Clinton wrote “It Takes a Village,” Walt understood this: “Whatever we have accomplished is due to the combined effort. The organization must be with you, or you can’t get it done.” This article makes for a very interesting read.

Case for Support

Click-It: Defining Your Case Through Four Vexingly Simple Questions by Andrew Brommel of Campbell & Company could also have been titled “Deceptively” simple questions. Because, while simple, these queries go to the heart of what it takes to be an effective nonprofit communicator and fundraiser. ACTION TIP: Convene an inter-departmental group and try to address these questions one at a time. Can you answer them thoughtfully and strategically? If you can, it will take you far.


Click-It: Starbucks Personalization – Evil, Funny, Or Brilliant? This article from Roger Dooley on Forbes will explain to you why you should be personalizing your donor communications. Plus you can watch a funny video. Fun is good!

Click-It: The 3 Types of Buyers, and How to Optimize for Each One, a guest post by Jeremy Smith on Neuromarketing, describes how understanding and embracing human psychology helps you understand consumer behaviors. He describes three types of buyers: Spendthrifts, Tightwads and Average Buyers. I happen to believe this applies to donors as well. Take a look, and see how it might help you with your fundraising offers. There’s a big storytelling trend these days (and for good reason); this article helps you determine when adding in a soupçon of data can help.

Appeal Frequency

Click-it: Is It Better or Worse to Send More Appeals? Michael Rosen gives us a thoughtful piece showing the answer to how many appeals you should send is not a simple one. If you’re going to test it for your nonprofit, you may want to track a number of variables.For now, what we know is that multiple appeals will generate more current net revenue. However, we don’t know how many appeals are optimal. We also do not know the affect multiple appeals have on donor retention and Lifetime Value.”


Click-It: Must-Read Fundraising and Social Media Reports for Nonprofits is a thorough list from Nonprofit Tech for Good with everything from the Nonprofit Benchmarks Study to the mGive Text Giving Study to the Millennial Impact Report to the Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Study and more. There’s something for everyone here.

Click-It: 50 Ways to ‘Move’ Your Donor: Stewardship Solutions to Get to Yes with Finesse. I’ll be joining the Foundation Center May 19th for a special Major Gifts Master Class: You’ll leave with a step-by-step cultivation plan; plus you’ll learn a novel, tried-and-true way to choreograph and measure your moves so you know exactly when you’re ready to ask. Register here.

Want more ways to keep more donors? I’ll be speaking in person at the AFP Silicon Valley luncheon meeting April 21st on why “A Donor is a Terrible Thing to Lose.” If you’re in the area, come by to learn how to improve your bottom line by recalibrating your strategies to concentrate more efforts on donor retention. Not nearby? Check out my Donor Retention and Gratitude Playbook.

Photo: Flickr, Isaac Torronterra

Borrow from Jimmy Fallon to Keep More Donors

Time for love 300x249 Borrow from Jimmy Fallon to Keep More Donors
Set aside some time to show gratitude – you’ll be doubly rewarded!


If you’re a fan of late-night talk show host Jimmy Fallon, you know he sets aside time every Friday night to write thank you letters. I think of it as “TYIF” (“Thank You It’s Friday). Jimmy’s notes are usually creative and thought-provoking, like “Thank you, emails that say “You have successfully unsubscribed from these emails,” for completely missing the point. One of his band members plays some soothing music that’s conducive to thank you writing – after a while, the music alone is enough to get you in a grateful, thank-you-writing mood!

What if your nonprofit did the same thing?!Continue Reading

Clairity Click-it: Nonprofit Staffing, Online Gratitude, Neuromarketing, Social Media, LinkedIn + Learning Opps

Mouse mouse2 300x202 Clairity Click it: Nonprofit Staffing, Online Gratitude, Neuromarketing, Social Media, LinkedIn + Learning Opps

Click it!

This week’s Click-It includes some really cool tips I’ve found for you across the web. Lots of practical stuff, plus some interesting data about how the human brain processes information. I also learned about a new website that might help you persuade your board to add a new position (or increase your salary). And, as always, some great learning opportunities (scroll to the bottom) you won’t want to miss! Continue Reading

Can’t Scan it? Ban it! 10 Reasons Nonprofit Appeals Tank

10 placards 300x300 Can’t Scan it? Ban it! 10 Reasons Nonprofit Appeals Tank

Get 10 Ways to Make Your Content Scannable

Stop Making Me — and Your Readers — Work

If reading your appeal seems like hard work to me, than why should I bother? I work all day! If reading your appeal seems like a struggle for comprehension, then what’s the point? I struggle to understand stuff all day.

My brain needs a rest.

Even more, my brain would enjoy a treat. Something that lights up my pleasure centers and makes me feel good.

Does your appeal do that for your would-be donors? Or does it require them to put in great effort to get through it?

Reading may be a breeze for you. But it’s not for everybody. Lots and lots of folks suffer from a range of “reading processing disorders” that make it difficult for them to plow through a bunch of dense text.Continue Reading

How One Little Word Gets Donors to Give to Your Nonprofit

you 300x199 How One Little Word Gets Donors to Give to Your Nonprofit

“Will YOU be our friend”? Never forget who your appeal is about.

In a recent Clairification post I told you I collect fundraising appeals. I suggested you do so as well. When you’ve got a nice little bunch, get together with your team and evaluate them. Figure out together what makes them work.

There are some neat little tricks I’ve learned over my 30+ year career that can really give your appeal a leg up. In the previous post we looked at the power of the word “because.” Today we’re going to look at the power of another simple word.

That word is YOU.

Did you know that “you” is one of the five most powerful words in the English language?

Does your appeal use YOU?

You can prevent the unhappy ending. Yes, “you!” Your letter should be written to compel your reader; not to talk about how great your organization is. “We,” “I” and “Our” have no place in your fundraising appeal.

Why? This is personal. Your donor is the hero. Your job is to let your donor know she can do something, personally, about the problem.

You can send a kid to college.

You can prevent a child from sleeping on the streets.

Never forget your job: to invite people to join you in something amazing… essential… critical… inspiring. It’s about the experience. The outcome. The impact. And who makes that possible? Your donor!

And when you’re writing to your donor, what does this mean?


You fed children last year.” Not “we fed children last year.”

You stepped up.” Not “Our nonprofit stepped up.”

Don’t make your appeals about you. Make it about your donor’s experience. Use “you” rather than “I” or “we” or “our.” Cross out all the ego-centric stuff and rewrite. As veteran communicator Tom Ahern says:

“You” is glue. Every time you use it (especially in headlines) the reader pays slightly more attention…involuntarily. Readers can’t help it! They’re hard-wired to respond to “you”! It’s the best cheap trick I know.”

People listen for the word YOU in a sentence to see when the conversation will come back around to them.

Guess what else people listen for?

Their own name.

The point of using “you” or “Claire” (assuming that’s your reader’s name) is that it’s reader-centric.  In fact, few things light people up as much as seeing their own name in print.

Call your donor by name (no “Dear Friend”) and show them how they – not you/your organization — can save the day.

Do this not only with the salutation in your letter, but also in the subject line of your email appeal. And think about other ways you might personalize your appeal, such as using something particularly descriptive of your reader such as geographic location (“Special for all Peninsula donors”), relationship with your organization (“Dear awesome monthly giving club donor”) or age/status (“Especially for Moms”).

Simply by using these connecting words you make your appeal relevant to the reader. The more relevant, the more likely your prospect will remain engaged. The more engaged, the more likely your prospect will take the next step. Voila! You’ve got your gift.

It’s December 1st. You’ve still got time to review your follow-up letters, email appeals and website copy. Stuff in the good “you” word wherever you can.

year end5 150x150 How One Little Word Gets Donors to Give to Your Nonprofit

How to maximize your chances, and not miss a trick!

Anatomy of an Appeal + Template 150x150 How One Little Word Gets Donors to Give to Your Nonprofit

How to make a fundraising offer your donor can’t refuse.

Year-End Fundraising “Cheat Sheets”

Get some quick tips using my Year-End Fundraising To-Do’s and Checklists e-Book to review a few things that can mean a big difference in your results. For a simple, step-by-step guide to crafting a killer appeal letter get my Anatomy of a Fundraising Appeal + Sample Template. I promise you’ll more than make up the $17 bucks you spend on either Guide — or I’ll make a donation to your nonprofit to assure that you do! Grab the To-Do’s and Checklists here and the Appeal Template here. Tell me what happens!

Photo courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

How “Because I Said So” Gets Donors to Give to Your Nonprofit

Father threatening son 300x199 How “Because I Said So” Gets Donors to Give to Your Nonprofit

Do it because I said so!

I’m a collector. I collect red and white kitchen memorabilia, flour sifters, tablecloths and fundraising appeals. I also tell my clients to become collectors (but just of the last item on my list!). I ask them to collect only appeals that demand their attention and cause them to give. After all, isn’t that the true measure of a fundraising appeal’s effectiveness?

I encourage them to ask everyone in their organization (other staff, board members, volunteers) to share winning appeals with them. Then I ask them to share the successful appeals with their team and endeavor to tease out what it is about these appeals the recipients find so irresistible.

Figure out what works; then copy it! After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

This is a great exercise for you and your team, and over the next several posts I’m going to suggest some things I find common to the most successful fundraising appeals. Ask these questions of the successful appeals you’re reviewing. Let’s begin!Continue Reading