STANFORD, Calif., May 1, 2009 — Stanford Social Innovation Review has been honored with a 2009 Maggie Award for its successful redesign. Judged on its editorial package, readability, research, cover, and editorial design elements, the journal received top recognition in the category “Most Improved Annual, Semi-Annual, Three-Time or Quarterly/Trade & Consumer.”

As nonprofit organizations tally results for 2008, many nonprofit leaders are concerned about how to focus their efforts to survive whatever this year may bring. 

While we all recognize that these are challenging times for all sectors — nonprofits and for-profits alike — there are important lessons we’ve learned from experiences during past economic downturns that will help us all this year and in the years ahead.

Imagine a school fundraising letter so personlized that it contains a quote not from just any teacher at the school, but rather from your child’s teacher. Or both your children’s different teachers. A letter that also went to the Joneses down the street, but with quotes from the Jones kids’ teachers.

Variable data imaging allows mailers to create mail pieces with different, often highly personalized text and images; its use so far has been mostly by for-profit mailers for high-value direct-mail campaigns, bills, statements and invoices. But Sarasota, Fla.-based private school The Out-of-Door Academy took a shot with it and found great success.

Grammar is the curse of direct-mail fundraising — and for several reasons.

First of all, those who sign fundraising letters often have the unfortunate conviction that the words they put on paper to describe their mission rank far above the words associated with selling a product.

So their letters tend to follow what they consider the basic rules of grammar, in order to give them a higher state of dignity than one they might write if they were selling women’s underwear.

There’s a reason many charities are reluctant to engage in techniques to upgrade their donors — or fail to do so altogether. Call it the “fear factor.”

They’re afraid donors will get irritated and stop sending gifts. They’re afraid a donor will give the upgrade letter to a board member and complain about the “pressure.”

Be not afraid. I bring you tidings of great joy. Fact: It has never been proven by any reliable statistical measurement that reasonable upgrading techniques will result in a substantial attrition of the donor file.

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