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

3 Secrets to Boost Fundraising Response: Help Donors Stretch Their Dollars + More

stretching your dollar 3 Secrets to Boost Fundraising Response: Help Donors Stretch Their Dollars + More

What kind of leverage can you offer your donor so your year-end appeal is an offer they can’t refuse?

Your year-end appeal is less likely to fall on deaf ears than at any other time of year. Why? It’s the time of year when people are naturally inclined towards counting their blessings and feeling both grateful and giving. Some nonprofits raise as much as 40% or more of their annual giving total during the last few months of the year. And 33% of December gifts are made on December 31st. It would be a shame to miss out on this!

In essence, you’ve got people where you want them in November and December. This being the case, don’t you want to put your best foot forward?

SECRET 150x150 3 Secrets to Boost Fundraising Response: Help Donors Stretch Their Dollars + More

I’m going to let you in on a little secret…
Continue Reading

Can I Sizzle You a Story? 2 Things Caught My Attention This Week

Sizzle 300x96 Can I Sizzle You a Story? 2 Things Caught My Attention This WeekI know you’ve got a nice juicy steak. And you think that’s amazing.  And it is. But it’s not enough to make me buy it.

Why not? I’ll tell you why not.

You’ve got to sizzle it!

Two articles caught my attention this week, and each provides the answer to how nonprofits can share what they do in a manner that inspires passionate philanthropic investment.Continue Reading

Hue Are You? What Color Can Mean for Your Marketing Strategy


Color Emotion Guide 300x189 Hue Are You? What Color Can Mean for Your Marketing Strategy

What emotions align with your nonprofit’s mission and brand identity?

 I adore color.  I’m definitely not someone who wears only black!  I thought it would be interesting to think about how we use color in our donor communications, and happened on several great infographics, including The Psychology of Color in Design and Color Psychology and Marketing. They offer a terrific overview of the meaning of colors in the western hemisphere. What you’ll learn is eye opening.Continue Reading

5 Secrets of Psychologists: How to Get Donors to Say “Yes”

Freud model 5 Secrets of Psychologists: How to Get Donors to Say “Yes”

You might miss out! How do you feel about that?

In 1984 Robert Cialdini wrote a groundbreaking book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, outlining principles of influence that affect human behaviors. A new infographic visually makes the point that, while technology advances, human triggers remain constant.

Even someone inclined to support your cause may not give unless you push the right buttons. Here are five triggers with a few suggested strategies (I’m sure you can come up with more) to use these principles in your offline and online relationship building with prospective supporters:Continue Reading

4 Secrets to Inspiring Philanthropy through Storytelling

Storytelling hands 4 Secrets to Inspiring Philanthropy through Storytelling

People. Purpose. Passion. Plan

Philanthropy; Not Fundraising

People. Purpose. Passion. Plan.  Four “P”s in a row. I know… you’re thinking, cute. Yawn. But wait. Before your eyes glaze over, stop a moment and think about these 4 “P”s.

They’re  central to your success in inspiring philanthropy.  Because even though I’ve written, and truly believe, that there are fundamental ways fundraising has changed significantly over the past five years, there are also things that haven’t changed at all. You simply must translate these fundamentals to the digital world:

  1. People love a good story.
  2. One with a purpose. 
  3. One told with passion. 
  4. One that has an order or plan. 

It’s human nature to love to listen to – and tell – a story.  So let’s figure out how to make that happen for your organization – and for your donors.Continue Reading

Purely Practical SMIT for November/December: 6 Fundamental truths about fundraising and nonprofit marketing

Here comes this month’s *SMIT (Single Most Important Thing I have to tell you):  The foundation of all fundraising and nonprofit marketing is relationships. Thanks to Katya Andreson for great inspiration in

. I told her I was going to post these fundamentals above my computer – and so should you!

163255555211661225 Rqs4xb26 b Purely Practical SMIT for November/December: 6 Fundamental truths about fundraising and nonprofit marketing
Basic: donors deserve a warm hug
I LOVE this post!  I agree with every one of these six fundamentals, and they are great reminders for us all. Distilled to their essence, they are:
1.  Happiness.
2.  Audience.
3.  Heartfelt.
4.  Stories, stories, stories.
5.  Messengers.
6.  Generosity.
Let’s take a closer look.

 HAPPINESS:  We’re in the happiness business. Giving makes people feel joy – the act of contributing to charity activates the pleasure centers of people’s brains. Remember: we’re not in the business of taking away money, we’re in the business of giving joy.  What a great job we have.
Katya is correct!  There’s been a lot of research into the psychology of giving and it all boils down to this:  we’re wired to be empathic. Our donors want to love others; similarly, they want to feel good about their gift of love. Psychologist John Marshall Roberts, speaking at Tedx New Zealand, goes so far as to say: Empathy is perhaps the foremost survival skill of the current age.We can nurture donors’ empathic instincts and give them this gift of love – which is at the heart of philanthropy.
AUDIENCE:  It’s not about us, it’s about our audience. This insight may be marketing 101, but it’s also gold.
Gold it is! Truly, the gold standard is the old “WIIFM” (What’s In It For Me?). Take a look at your last fundraising appeal… your e-newsletter… your annual report.  How many times do you use the words “I” and “we” and “our” instead of “you” and “your”?  Would it be clear to the reader what’s in it for them?  Or does it just seem like they’ll be helping you to reach a fundraising goal or balance your budget? Donor-centered fundraising is not about money or product features. You aren’t selling soap or anything else that’s tangible.  So you’ve got to offer an inspiringemotional/psychological kick-back.
HEARTFELT:  Feeling first, facts later.  There are no exceptions to the rule that we must awaken the heart to arouse the mind.
People give from the heart! When we’re in the emotional/psychological kick-back space it’s all about tugging at heartstrings.  And this isn’t manipulative; it’s about giving people what they want. It’s when we try to persuade people about something they don’twant that we enter manipulation territory (you know, trying to scare someone into buying tickets to the fireman’s ball because they fear their house may otherwise burn down).
STORIES, STORIES, STORIES:  Nothing beats a good story about one person.
No exceptions! We’re all story people. In 1980, Richard Nisbett and two fellow psychologists conducted a study  to see if a single, vivid story (i.e., a very small sample) would more powerfully affect test subjects than authoritative data on the same topic. As Paul Slovic and his colleagues would find two decades later, in a famous experiment about “the identifiable victim effect,” narrative beat the numbers every time. In that study, those who received a fact-based appeal from Save the Children donated $1.14. Those who read a story about an individual child in need donated an average of $2.38, more than twice as much.
MESSENGERS: We can have a stellar message, but if you have the wrong messenger, it won’t matter.  We’re in an era where faith in traditional spokespeople and marketers is at a historic low, and so people are turning to trusted friends, family, independent authorities and peers for their recommendations.  That means we’re best off with messengers other than ourselves. 
Use your influencers!  Too often we wait until the last minute to decide who’ll sign our fundraising appeal or from whom our e-appeal will come.  These things should not be afterthoughts.  New research shows just how much the messenger matters.  Peer-to-peer fundraising works because the askers are not paid to ask. Letters from clients are more influential than letters from you. I know you know these things. Act on your knowledge.
GENEROSITY: Generosity inspires generosity…  It’s not what I need, it’s what I provide. I’m in the business of giving, not extracting… I’ll care about relationships, not transactions.
Give at the office! All of us, and that means your donor, yearn for that one moment when we’re bigger and better than ourselves. Where we soar.  Where we step outside our daily, mundane lives and exceed our wildest expectations.   Our job as fundraisers and nonprofit professionals is to help our donors see the way to greatness. We have to be partners with our donors. It may sound nutty to some, but our responsibility as development professionals is to care about our donors and be generous with them. We’ve got to put them first. That’s the only way to build genuine relationships.  We can’t be detached. If it’s just a job to you, maybe you’re in the wrong place.
What is the most fundamental of all these truths? Were you to add one additional fundamental about fundraising and nonprofit marketing, what would it be?

Games Board Members Must Play: How Your Nonprofit Leaders Can Help or Harm You

FollowTheLeader WHT original Games Board Members Must Play: How Your Nonprofit Leaders Can Help or Harm You

The absolutely most important game a board member must play is ‘follow the leader.’ In my last post series on “The 3 Ways We Go Wrong Asking Nonprofit Boards to Help Raise Funds” I spoke of the unique job board members have as role models. A growing body of research shows that human beings are, first and foremost, social creatures.  We use the brains of others to think for us and as storage space for our knowledge about the world. In considering whether and how to get involved with any nonprofit, people will look first to the board for guidance.

We ignore this at our peril.

We develop and learn about the world around us through the filter of other people. Board members are the filter through which others in our community will view us. The New York Times columnist David Brooks, author of “The Social Animal,” notes that we are not separate individuals but “emerge out of relationships” and are deeply formed and shaped by them. He states that “people learn from people they love.”
herd mentality Games Board Members Must Play: How Your Nonprofit Leaders Can Help or Harm You

If we really want to change things we need to understand how people behave. It was Aristotle himself who first described humans as “social animals,” and indeed his observation from 350 B.C. has been borne out by the field of evolutionary anthropology. According to the authors of I’ll Have What She’s Having: Mapping Social Behavior, we are a ‘we’ species, not a ‘me’ species. People tend not to think for themselves; they follow the lead of others whom they respect and admire. We are products of a herd mentality. 

The positive thing about us social animals is that we are hard wired to coalesce in groups. Today modern psychology and neuroscience reveal that the human species has just as much of a capacity for empathy and altruism as they do for selfishness and greed.  Frans deWaal writes of this in The Age of Empathy: Nature’s Lessons for a Kinder Society, and Darwin talked of survival of the most empathic when speaking of communities. Significant work by the Greater Good Science Center in Berkeley, led by Dacher Keltner, also supports this notion. Work in the field of developmental psychology reveals we possess a neural capacity for empathy that guides us from the day we are born. As babies, we cry at the sound of another baby crying. We are attuned to each other’s emotional needs. We want to help one another.
At the same time, we’ve a tendency to pay tribute to the alpha male (or female) within the group. We look for guidance… power… strength… authority… leadership. And, if you will, the board represents the alpha males in your group/organization/community.
Simply put, what the board does matters. It matters a lot.  Foundations and businesses will ask what the board is doing before they commit.  Potential individual donors will decide how much to give based on the size of gifts committed by the board. New board members will decide whether they can abstain from fundraising based on the level of involvement in which they see existing board members engaged. And so on. We want to follow the leader.
Without a board that leads by example it will be extremely difficult for any social benefit organization to survive and thrive. You see, it’s not what we say that really matters.  It’s what we do.  People won’t magically fall in line behind us just because we have a good case for support.  Lots of organizations have a good case for support.  People will line up behind a leader way before they’ll step up to the line on their own.
influencer1 Games Board Members Must Play: How Your Nonprofit Leaders Can Help or Harm You

It turns out that influencers have tremendous power and clout. Authors like Malcolm Gladwell in The Tipping Point, Duncan Watts in a series of publications on social networks, Nicholas Christakis in Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives, and Stanley Milgram who developed the notion of “Six Degrees of Separation” (though he did not use that phrase himself) teach us that networks matter, and that some folks within networks are more influential than others.  These are the folks we want to bring onto our boards.  And these are the folks we want to be sure will use their influence on our behalf.

Influencers influencing; this is the most important role board members can play for our organization.

Do you have a good way to help your board members step up to their role as influencers?
Other posts to help your board members embrace their leadership role in fundraising/financing:

The 3 Ways We Go Wrong Asking Nonprofit Boards to Help Raise Funds – Part 1

new image escif The 3 Ways We Go Wrong Asking Nonprofit Boards to Help Raise Funds   Part 1

Last week I tuned in to the Nashville t.v. series premiere.  Almost the first words to come out of someone’s mouth (a dad to his daughter):  “Honey, it’s bad manners to talk about money.”  I recently explored the money taboo as it relates to fundraising. Today’s post digs a bit deeper. Subsequent posts will dig into two other ways we go wrong when we ask our boards to raise funds. In the end we’ll have a recipe for success.

The 3 Ways We Go Wrong Asking Board Members to Help Raise Funds
1.         We let them think it’s about money.
2.         We let them wallow in how painful the process is.
3.         We’re unclear with them about their very special role.
The problem with letting folks think fundraising is about money.
When we ask board members to go out and seek MONEY we lead them down a very uncomfortable path.  It’s better not to go there and to stay well within the comfort zone. And, it turns out this is relatively easy as long as we remember one thing: Folks do not invest in charities because organizations need MONEY.
Fundraising is about inviting people to participate in making a difference.
We’re comfortable giving not because organizations have needs, but because organizations meet needs. A gift to your organization is really a gift through your organization to the community.  People make philanthropic investments because they want to HELP.  So your job is to help your board members connect with and envision the hungry kids… neglected environment… abandoned animals… all those wrongs that need to be righted.  They must feel that when they ask for a gift they are asking to CHANGE these things. They are not asking for themselves.
When our organization is successfully MAKING A DIFFERENCE and helping to transform lives, then it is incumbent on us to secure financing to continue that mission.  It’s a privilege, and board members should be honored to be a part of a noble, effective cause.  They should use pride, not apology, when asking for an organization that is successfully meeting a need.
Negative phrases that stem from our discomfort with money must be retired.  No more: “I’m going to hit him up”… “I’ll go twist her arm”… “Every little bit helps”…“You probably hate to get this call, but…” If this is how we approach people, no wonder folks find it distasteful!  Who wants to have body parts attacked?  Who wants to do something ‘little’? I prefer more uplifting and expansive phrases like “investment” and “giving” and “impact”.  People follow their investments.  People love gifts.  People want to create impact.
Fundraising is not a monetary transaction. No. It’s a transforming, values-based process that matches a donor-investor who cares about the values your organization enacts with the values you are enacting.  You’re doing what they already want to do.  You help them transform their ideals into actions and carry out their dreams.
If we’re primarily talking about money, we’re lost. Fundraising is about helping. It’s about enabling folks to be the change they want to see in the world. It’s about making a difference. It’s not about money.
Even the best fundraising tips, training and support in the world won’t work if negative beliefs (for example, “money is the root of all evil” and “nice people don’t talk about money”) are in the way. How do you overcome these deep-seated beliefs?

Other posts to help your board members embrace fundraising:

How to Overcome the Money Taboo and Succeed with Fundraising

gallo money story 3 How to Overcome the Money Taboo and Succeed with Fundraising
We think asking for money is like hanging our dirty laundry
My last post explored the reasons board members fear fundraising . Most fear of fundraising boils down to two factors: (1) fear of rejection, and (2) fear of looking stupid due to insufficient knowledge/skills. It turns out that these fears are relatively easy to overcome. Seriously. Read the last post.
The hard part is overcoming our deep-rooted psychological aversion to talking about money.  Most of us were raised to believe this is impolite.We’d rather talk about anything else.

Many scholars argue that money is the number one social taboo in America (see also Krueger, The Last Taboo). Even religion, sex and politics are better discussion topics as far as most of us are concerned.
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The Fundraising Taboo
Where money is concerned, we tend to come from a place of “no.”  And people think fundraising is all about money. Here’s what I mean:  Say the word “fundraising” and look at people’s faces.  Their mouths will pucker up in a grimace.  Their eyes will squinch closed as if in pain.  Their brows will furrow.  I recently tried this with a board of directors, asking them each to give me the first word they thought of when they thought of fundraising. Here are the (all) negatives:

Hang up
When viewed as being about money fundraising, at best, is seen as an onerous chore; a necessary evil.  We’ll put it off for as long as possible – sometimes forever. This is why many organizations find themselves in an endless cycle of cultivation, never getting around to the “ask”.  We even get as far as making solicitation assignments to our volunteers, and they often tell us they are willing.  But they back burner the job.  We call and remind them.  They say “yes, I’m meaning to do that soon.”  They don’t.  We call again.  Nada. Zip. Effectively, we say “no” on behalf of our would-be supporters – never even extending them the courtesy of making their own decision. Before you know it, the year has ended and we’ve effectively avoided doing our chore.

Why do we do this, especially with organizations we love?  When we serve on a board (or as a committed donor) aren’t we making a statement about our values?  And if we truly value something, wouldn’t we want to share our values with others and enable others with similar values to also participate in the wonderful mission of which we’re a part?

This brings me to the word “philanthropy”, which literally means “love of humankind” (from Greek).  When I asked the same board who painted the word “fundraising” with a negative brush to paint the word “philanthropy” for me, here are the (all) positives:

 How to Overcome the Money Taboo and Succeed with Fundraising


Fundraising is not about money; as a servant to philanthropy it’s really about love. And we mustn’t say “no” to love on behalf of others.  People are perfectly capable of doing this on their own, and they should be able to make their own choices. What makes us feel okay about denying others the opportunity to feel fulfilled?  As one of my fundraising mentors and founder of The Fundraising School, Hank Rosso, said: “Fundraising is the gentle art of teaching the joy of giving.”

Once board members understand their role as noble “philanthropy facilitators” (as teachers rather than ignoble fundraisers) they can shift their brains from a place of “detestable” to a place of “honorable.” Most of us genuinely want to help others.  We want to care about something other than ourselves.  We welcome someone reaching out to touch us… to motivate us… to inspire us to the actions for which we yearn.

I love the definition of philanthropy coined by Bob Payton, professor emeritus at The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, as “voluntary action for the public good.” Every word has impact. Philanthropy is voluntary; not coerced. It’s action; time or money given, and it’s directed towards the public good. In other words, it’s not about money. It’s about helping.

Philanthropy is based in values. Development uncovers folks who share the values your organization enacts. Fundraising matches the donor who shares those values with the organization that enacts them. Presto! We’ve suddenly shown others the path to be the change they want to be in the world. That’s why “fundraisers” are such superstars. Fundraisers are the catalysts that make change happen.

Do you see the difference between fundraising and philanthropy? How would you help your board members to get over the fundraising taboo?