During the first-ever FundRaising Success Virtual Conference & Expo held on May 20 (and available on-demand until Aug. 24), FS columnist and creative director at TrueSense Marketing Jeff Brooks provided 25 good ideas and even one bad one for fundraisers. Here is a rundown of his ideas from his session, “Feel the Power!”
If you don’t donate money to organizations yourself, Brooks said, then stop fundraising and go join an industry you’re willing to participate in.
2. Get on every mailing list
The more lists you are on, the more people you reach.
3. Hang around with older folks
“Older people are your donors,” Brooks said. So make sure you spend time with your elders to learn about their likes and dislikes, how they read things, how to make communications easier. That way, you can present them with the most relevant, easy-to-read information about your cause.
4. Go to church
“Most donors are religiously active,” Brooks said, “and a lot of that shapes how they think about giving, causes they support and how they can change the world.”
5. Read the popular press
“They’re all about getting read, and they’re very good at it,” Brooks said. Take what attracts you to stories in the popular media outlets and apply it to your communications so they get read.
6. Be not afraid
“A lot of us are afraid of failure, looking bad, losing bad,” Brooks said. “Fear makes us do really stupid things. Get fear out of your mind. Fear does more damage to you than the things you are afraid of.”
7. Ignore your brand guidelines
“Brand guidelines are about us, but fundraising is about donors,” he said. Worry more about your donors and what’s important to them, not what your board demands in branding.
8. Work without committees
The more people involved, the more convoluted and disconnected the message could be.
9. Make the donor the hero
“You’re always going to be tempted to make your organization the hero,” Brooks warned. “But donors don’t give because you’re great; they give because they’re great. It’s all about the donors.”
10. Raise funds online
Everyone is online already anyway, and the channel keeps on growing. While online giving might not be a huge percentage right now, “suddenly, it’s going to be a bigger slice of the pie,” Brooks predicted.
11. Remember, you are wrong
Raising funds isn’t about what you like; it’s about what your donors like … especially considering your donors are probably older than you. Therefore, “everything about you makes you a really bad sounding board,” Brooks said. “Just because you wouldn’t respond doesn’t mean your donors won’t. Learn about your donors, what they respond to … not what you respond to.”
12. Ask more often
“Most organizations are really timid about asking their donors. They have systems about giving rest,” Brooks said. “The more recently somebody gave, the more likely they are to give now. Donors like to give.” So ask them to give. More times than not, they’ll be happy to respond with gifts.
13. Keep asking your best donors
Going hand in hand with No. 12, donors like to give, and you should keep asking those who give the most.
14. Send receipts faster
“We live in an instant-gratification society. It’s got to be that way with your receipts,” Brooks said.
15. Give your donors choices
“When you give donors choice, they give more often, they give larger gifts and they stay longer,” he said. “It’s the nearest thing to magic that I know of in fundraising.”
16. Repeat yourself
Repetition, repetition, repetition. Brooks suggested to ask a bunch of times in a single letter, and don’t be afraid to ask the same thing.
17. Don’t focus on huge numbers
In fundraising, one is greater than 21 million. “The human brain does not know how to deal with giant numbers. We only know how to respond emotionally to small numbers,” Brooks said. “People don’t give to a problem because it’s big; they do it because they think they can solve it.”
Focus your need to one story, one person in need, how your gift can save a life. That way, the donor believes his or her gift can and will actually help solve the problem, not that it’s a hopeless effort.
18. Make the letter longer
“Longer copy works better,” Brooks said. “We don’t really know why, but it works.”
19. Design is boring
Don’t focus on fancy designs and intricate fonts. People want to be able to read your letter. Plain, black type on white paper works the best, in readable fonts. Don’t get fancy. It’s all about readability.
20. Get rid of the teaser
“Most teasers are bad, and it’s really hard to do one,” Brooks warned. However, he urged fundraisers to test this. In fact, he admitted, “the really, really big winners usually do have a teaser.” Trick is … it has to be a good one.
21. Put a live First Class stamp on the return envelope
It boosts response, but at some level, it’s not worth it, Brooks said. If someone gives less than $100 a year or so, or wherever your organization’s cutoff point is, it may not be worth it.
22. Write at a sixth-grade reading level
That doesn’t mean write as if you’re writing to a sixth grader. It means things like using short sentences and short words. Make it easier to read. It’s all about lowering the pain and struggle level for your donors, Brooks said.
23. Write the reply coupon first
Brooks said a lot of copywriters write the package in order, but he said you need to know where your package is going. “It’s about the destination, not the journey. Make sure you’ve got that right; know exactly where you’re going,” he said.
24. Tell your donors you need them
“Donors want to matter,” Brooks said. “It’s all about their significance.”
25. Send your newsletter in an envelope
Brooks claims it will double response, though again, he’s not exactly sure why.
Bad idea: Let a typo go through
“I can’t prove it, but many times we’ve discovered some terrible typo happened (i.e., fill the pantry — fill the panty) and it worked really, really well,” Brooks said. “I can give you many examples. I can’t officially recommend this to you, and we’re not entirely sure why. It gets people more involved, I think, and then it means, oh by the way, they’re reading your message.”