You have to love a book that's titled All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten.

In it, you'll read about some simple lessons we all learn as kids - things that still apply in adulthood.

That got me thinking about the simple fundraising truths that I learned early on in my fundraising career. Things that still guide me every day, in every word I write for nonprofits.

KAY SPRINKEL GRACE: "DONORS GIVE THROUGH YOU, NOT TO YOU"

Kay may not have been the first person to say this, but she's the first person I heard say it.

In her book Beyond Fundraising, Kay says "Donors do not give to organizations because organizations have needs: they give because organizations meet needs."

Here's another way to think about it: Your nonprofit is a means to an end.

When a donor gives to your nonprofit, she's doing it because the people, places, or things you help are important to her.

That's why it's essential to talk to your donor about things she cares about (vs. talking about your organization and what's important to you).

TOM AHERN: "YOU" IS GLUE

Like many experts in the field, Tom Ahern stresses the importance of donor-centric communications.

In Keep Your Donors, Tom says, "The word 'you' has superpowers."

He reminds us that "You" is glue." He goes on to suggest that you should "spread it thickly" in your fundraising materials.

In How to Write Fundraising Materials that Raise Money, Tom introduced what he called the "You" test.

"With red pen in hand, circle each time the word 'you' appears in your material - any form of you: you'd, you'll, your, you're, yours, yourself, you've.
If you see red circles all over the place, you've passed the 'You' test."

Take the test. Then take it again (and again) until your fundraising materials pass.

JEFF BROOKS: BE S.U.R.E.

In How to Turn Your Words into Money, Jeff shares his personal fundraising copy formula that works. It's an acronym: S.U.R.E.

Jeff explains that fundraising messages work when they are extremely

  • Simple
  • Urgent
  • Repetitive, and
  • Emotional.

And trust me. The S.U.R.E. formula sure does work!

STEVEN SCREEN: MAKE AN "OFFER" YOUR DONOR CAN'T REFUSE

In simple terms, an "offer" helps the donor understand exactly why they should give to you today.

Here's the kicker: an effective offer tells the donor exactly how much can really make a difference - and it's an amount that anyone can afford.

Steven wrote an incredibly useful 11-part series on fundraising offers - what they are, how to create them, how to use them, and so much more.

It's well worth the time to read the series, so you can put the power of offers to work for you.

JOHN LEPP: THE ENVELOPE HAS THE MOST IMPORTANT JOB

If you think all an envelope does is hold and deliver its contents, you're mistaken.

The real job of your envelope is to entice the recipient to open it.

A self-admitted "envelope nerd," John recently wrote a charming series on Dale's Mail. Real life examples, from a real-life mailbox. And post #1 is all about the outer envelope.

Spend some time learning from Dale's Mail.

FINAL THOUGHTS

You can write the most amazing fundraising letter and send it to someone who cares about your cause.

The letter can be donor-centric.

It can be simple, urgent, repetitive, and emotional.

It can even have a great offer.

But, if your donor doesn't open it, she's not going to read it. And if she doesn't read it, she's not going to respond.

So, as you start planning your next fundraising letter, keep these 5 lessons in mind.

And remember: the whole is more than the sum of their parts!

Photo credit(s): Pixabay


Need help writing a winning year-end appeal that uses best practices like these? Laura Rhodes can help.

Send a message to start the conversation and learn how Laura can help you and your organization.

You may also be interested in upcoming training events.