Messages From P, Q, R, S and T

As we continue our journey through the alphabet, you’ll find more ideas to help recharge your fundraising, using P, Q, R, S and T as my “copy triggers.” (Just like writing a good fundraising appeal, right?!)
And there’s a bonus: Once again, Sue Pargman fromMasterworks has weighed in with some recommendations. I’ll include her thoughts at the end of my article, giving all you overachieving fundraisers an opportunity for extra credit this week. So let’s get started …

P is for person
Before you start to write your e-appeal, letter or newsletter, remember who you are writing to. It’s one person. Visualize that person, perhaps even thinking of a family member or acquaintance to whom you want to tell the story of your nonprofit.

You’ve heard me say it before, but it bears repeating now (and again in the future, I am sure): “I am not the target audience.” Since you aren’t your target — after all, you know too much about your nonprofit and fundraising — it can help to remember that you are writing to one person. Especially if your donor base is typically a different age or gender than you, or dissimilar in any other way, having a single person in mind who does remind you of your target can help you keep your letter sounding like a conversation between the letter signer and that one, very important person.

Q is for question
This week, vow to question everything. No, this isn’t permission to be a pain to your colleagues, but ask yourself “why.” Why do you send that mailing every April? Why don’t you set up a special landing page for each e-appeal? Why don’t you have more stories and photos to choose from? Or whatever it is that you have come to accept as “just part of working here.”

There are some things that can’t be changed, so it’s easy to stop questioning other things and just learning to live with them. But technology changes, personnel changes and even programs change. So now is a good time to ask questions and see if you now have freedom to change some things for the better.

R is for review
Even if you are swamped, reviewing your numbers is a necessary task. If nothing else, look at the income (gross and net) of each activity, your attrition rate, number of gifts per donor in a year, annual value of donors by acquisition source, lapsed renewal, first-time donor conversion and non-donor conversion. I know some readers will disagree with this list and think I missed some obvious things, but this is a good place to start.

It’s hard to know how to fix the levee if you don’t know where the leaks are. These core reports will help you see where you have room to improve and what’s working (and maybe expandable). If you aren’t reviewing your numbers, you’re driving down the freeway at 80 mph with a blindfold on. Eventually you’re going to crash, and you’ll leave a lot of wreckage behind. Key reports take the blindfold off and give you clear direction.

S is for stop. S is for start
Is there one thing that just isn’t working? Maybe it’s the regular article in the newsletter that never says anything that is really new (but has always been in that space). Perhaps it’s the insert in a mailing that is outdated and, well, just dull. Or it may be a fundraising event that stopped being fun (and successful) back in the 1980s. Tradition is not a good reason to keep doing some things. Ask yourself if something falls into that category and if it’s time to say farewell.

And while you’re at it, start something new this week. What is it you really wanted to add to your fundraising program? Decide that today is the time and put together a plan to make it happen. It may not only give your donors something new to be excited about, but it can also re-energize your fundraising.

T is for time
I know, you don’t have enough. That’s the reality we all live with. And that’s why we neglect the things we know we ought to do or want to do. So decide right now to find a way to take 30 minutes and invest in yourself as a fundraiser. Read the first few chapters of the management or fundraising book you’ve wanted to read. Look online at the donation pages of five nonprofits you admire and see if there are ideas you can learn from. Set up a call with a fundraising colleague, and pick his or her brain for 15 minutes about your biggest challenge.

Many fundraisers either do or feel like they work alone. Taking time to brainstorm with someone else or learn from what others have done or written can be a wonderful way to broaden your own knowledge and reboot your career and your passion.

And Sue says …

  • Proofread. “If you can’t spell accurately, how can you spend my money reliably?”
  • Quantity and quality. Quantity may be about less: short copy, short paragraphs, short sentences. And quality is about well-researched stats, facts and stories, as well as a finished product (online or offline) that is easy to read and “a sight for sore eyes.”
  • Relevant. Be relevant to your donors and relevant to what’s happening in the larger world outside your nonprofit.
  • Scannable. Create some “hot spots” so your donors can scan and know what the big idea is. Use techniques that draw the reader to the message — and lead to a response.
  • Trust. Build trust with lift notes from endorsers who are trustworthy, financial information that is scannable and visual, testimonies from donors, and quotes from people who have benefitted from your work.

Be sure to check back next week for the final article in this series.

Originally published in NonProfit Pro.

Author: PJBarden

With a professional career in strategic fundraising that spans more than 35 years, Pamela brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to working with nonprofit organizations. She specializes in writing fundraising copy, grant proposals, P.R. materials, instructional articles and blog entries, as well as developing and executing fundraising strategy for her clients. Pamela is a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE); an instructor for UCLA Extension School’s Fundraising Certification Program and the University of La Verne, College of Business and Public Management; a frequent webinar speaker; and author of two online courses for UCLA Extension. Pamela earned a Doctorate of Business Administration in 2015; her doctoral project (dissertation) was entitled “Nonprofit Organizations’ Awareness of and Preparation for Legislation, Regulation, and Increasing Scrutiny.” She is a past winner of a Gold Award for Fundraising Excellence and an ECHO Award from DMA; recipient of a Distinguished Instructors Award from UCLA Extension; a weekly columnist for NonprofitPRO (formerly Fundraising Success); and a monthly contributor to Blackbaud’s blog, npEngage.

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