Fundraising Ideas for the Fund Raiser

Home
Yellow Pages
Newsletter
Contact Information
Free Booklets
Fundraising Classifieds
Subscribe - Free
Fundraising ideas for a fundraiser Great new fundraising ideas for your next fundraiser
New Fundraisers FUNDRAISER OF THE MONTH "Looking for more fundraising choices?"

SUBSCRIBE FREE
Make sure you get all this good fundraising info every time we publish a new article!

Your Name:

Your E-mail Address:

We promise never to sell, rent, or give your email address to anyone else. PERIOD!

Bookmark This Fundraiser Site
Share this Fundraising Site
Fundraising Feed Subscribe in a reader


Article Archive

Fundraising Auctions

Fundraising Calendar

Fundraising Events

Grants

Fundraising Ideas

Nonprofit Leadership

Fundraising Letters

Nonprofit Newsletters

Planned Giving

Publicity

Fundraising Raffles

Fundraising Strategies

Volunteers

General




Fundraising Products, Services and Ideas

Fundraising Newsletter

Fundraising secrets, tips & hints

The Dance of the Four Veils

by Tom Ahern

Excerpted from Tom Ahern's new book, Seeing through a Donor's Eyes
© Emerson & Church, Publishers - www.emersonandchurch.com


For the most part, nonprofit communications are boring. Not on purpose, mind you. Still, they are almost always uninteresting, my vast exposure to them suggests. And why? Because they swaddle themselves in one or more of the following interest-draining veils.

Veil #1: They reject any mention of conflict.

Ditto: controversy. Ditto: uncomfortable truths. Ditto: “anything that might upset people.”

Conflict and controversy are the essence of drama. Drama automatically engages and intrigues readers, because our brains are wired to respond to such stimuli. Drama moves people. Drama overcomes indifference and inertia. And indifference and inertia are your real enemies when you’re trying to communicate, particularly when you’re trying to fundraise.

An absence of drama leaves readers bored, cold, unmoved, indifferent.

Does your mission naturally lack drama? Doubtful. Many, maybe most, charitable missions are in some way a solution to a serious problem: teenagers in trouble, disappearing natural habitat, disease, ignorance, chronic poverty. Problems like these are inherently dramatic.

Bear in mind, too, that the problems you’re attempting to solve are exactly what makes your agency seem relevant to donors, prospects, the media and others. If you climb aboard “the Happy Talk Express” and avoid drama at all costs, your communications ring false and your organization seems less relevant.

Veil #2: A tendency to prefer weak, bland words to bold, vivid words.

Consider headline verbs, for example.

Here’s a collection of verbs plucked from headlines in The Wall Street Journal: mauled, devour, looms, spark, threaten, embrace, sputters, sowing, surge, reject, retools, blames, loses, clash, expand. What characterizes this collection of verbs? Vigor, sound, fury, sharp action. In sum: these verbs have impact.

Newspaper editors have a saying: The verb is the story. Surges? The trend is up. Collapses? The trend is down. Verbs are fireworks, motion, attitude.

Here’s a collection of verbs, though, that I scoured from headlines in nonprofit newsletters: establishes, listed, use, unite, reach, give back, plan, unifies, build, sets, visits, shares, administer, awards, help, benefits.

What characterizes this collection of verbs? They are inconclusive (shares), weak (administer), loftier than need be (unifies), and flat (visits, as in visits an issue). In sum: no impact.

Veil #3: Faint (if any) appreciation for the emotional basis behind all human response.

Instead of fear, anger, hope, and salvation, we are served extra helpings of pontification.

As noted earlier, with modern MRI diagnostics, we can now watch the brain fire as it makes a decision. It fires first in the emotional seat, then the impulse routes through the rational seat. Imagine the rational part of your brain as a flunky armed with a rubber stamp that says, in formidable letters, APPROVED. The emotions decide what to do. The rational part of your brain seconds the decision: Approved.

The old thinking held that emotions and reasoning were opposites. They struggled for dominance. The well-informed thinking now knows that emotions initiate the decision, and the reasoning area of your brain struggles to keep up with a “Yes, dear.”

Veil #4: Jargon.

Allowing jargon into your case is a faux pas. It’s a mildly disgusting habit, something you don’t do in front of guests, like flossing at the dinner table.

Here’s a United Way of my acquaintance explaining itself: “Our awareness and efforts now focus on community impact goals, and how we feed into that. In other words,” [my emphasis added], “our work has become driven more by mission than by function. We need the multi-pronged approach to move public will, and there has been an exponential benefit of working more closely and in concert.”

In other words? This writer needs help. Real “other words” would have said something obvious like, “We’ve changed the way we do things. We hope to get better results this way. Our first attempt was a big success.”

Jargon is not public language. It’s for specialists only. Words like “interdisciplinary,” that bring to mind all sorts of positive connotations among educators, do not resonate the same way for the average person.

And the average person – not a specialist – is your target audience. When the University of Toronto raised a billion dollars recently, 112,819 people made gifts. It’s safe to assume that very few were specialists conversant with academic jargon.

Return to the example of non-conversational writing that opened this chapter. The full text reads as follows:

“XYZ University’s strategic plan is designed to amplify the university’s academic excellence. The result of a 13-month planning effort, the plan identifies strategies to enhance the university’s work for students on three fronts:

  • Reinterpreting the liberal arts skills of communication and critical thinking to take into account 21st-century challenges and opportunities

  • Multiplying connections between students and faculty members by building on the faculty’s record of original research and creativity

  • Building on XYZ University’s strong sense of community, locally and globally”

What’s wrong with this sort of writing? At least three things: (1) it’s freighted with jargon, the kind of bureaucrat-ese only insiders understand; (2) it mentions no emotional goals; and (3) the donor is nowhere in sight. Here’s a rewrite that covers the very same ground, but eliminates all the flaws:

“Within a decade, if all goes according to plan, XYZ University will emerge as the top school in its class, leaving behind our ‘peer schools’ of today. Admittedly, the plan is ambitious. And it won’t be cheap: excellence in education at this level never is. But we will get there, thanks to your vision, your commitment, and your help.”

There’s no jargon. The donor is given all the credit in the last sentence. And what are the “emotional goals”? (I.e., goals that touch the heart of the target audience.) There are several: emerging as the top school in its class, leaving behind its peer schools, and pursuing an ambitious (as opposed to ordinary) plan. These are all things the alumni understand, appreciate, and want. How do I know? I’ve asked.

Final word goes to the brothers Heath, from their business bestseller, Made to Stick:

“Concrete language helps people, especially novices, understand new concepts. Abstraction is the luxury of the expert.” What does “concrete” mean? “If you can examine something with your senses, it’s concrete. A V8 engine is concrete. ‘High-performance’ is abstract. Most of the time, concreteness boils down to specific people doing specific things.”



AddThis Social Bookmark Button
AddThis Social Bookmark Button
 Subscribe in a reader

***********************


About the Author:

Tom Ahern is recognized as one of North America’s top authorities on nonprofit communications. He began presenting his top-rated Love Thy Reader workshops at fundraising conferences in 1999. He founded his consulting practice in 1990 (www.aherncomm.com). His firm specializes in capital campaign case statements, nonprofit communications audits, direct mail, and donor newsletters. His efforts have won three prestigious IABC Gold Quill awards, given each year to the best communications work worldwide.

About the Book:

The Dance of the Four Veils is excerpted from the new book: Seeing through a Donor's Eyes by Tom Ahern

How to Make a Persuasive CASE for Everything from your Annual Drive to your Planned Giving Program to your Capital Campaign

What do …

Successful donor newsletters, websites, annual reports, donor acquisition programs, email, direct mail, advertising, planned giving programs, and capital campaigns all have in common?

Behind each stands a well-reasoned, emotionally satisfying case for support.

You can be sure donors have good questions. Good causes need great answers.

And that’s what Tom Ahern’s new book, Seeing through a Donor’s Eyes, offers organizations of every stripe - a cache of hard-won secrets for selling your vision and mission effectively.

The step-by-step process revealed in Ahern’s instructive book guarantees a persuasive, sharply-focused story that will motivate donors to give even in this harsh climate.

Available through Emerson & Church, Publishers: www.emersonandchurch.com





Want to get more great fundraising information just like this?
Join our mailing list and we'll send you an email every time we publish a new article!

Your Name:

Your E-mail Address:

We promise never to sell, rent, or give your
email address to anyone else. PERIOD!


Editor's Picks

Fundraising Booklets
Cookiedough Fundraising
Scratchcard Fundraising
Safe Fundraising



Recommended Suppliers

Constant Contact
The gold standard in nonprofit email newsletter delivery. Custom newsletter templates, funding appeals, event updates & more. 20% nonprofit discount!

www.constantcontact.com


Recommended Books

7 Essential Steps to Raising Money by Mail
Learn with practical examples, detailed checklists, writing helps and other tools. Sample letters for different types of solicitations and for different nonprofit groups. A step by step guide to writing fundraising letters.

www.StepByStepFundraising.com

Silent Auction Guide & Toolkit
Learn how to create a successful silent auction fundraiser. Silent auction strategies, timelines, auction items and how to organize and display them, how to close an auction and take payments, and other add on fundraisers to boost the bottom line of your silent auction.

www.StepByStepFundraising.com

Let's Raise Money
The inside scoop about small group fundraising. Learn from the founder of a national fundraising company as he reveals secrets observed over nearly two decades of fundraising.
www.LetsRaiseMoney.com
Read a Free Excerpt

The Ultimate Guide to Planning a 5K Run or Walk Fundraiser
Plan a successful race from scratch. Proven marketing strategies, find and manage volunteers, maximize revenues, recruit and motivate teams. Checklists, forms, speadsheets, worksheets all included.

www.CharityMile.com

Secrets of the Charity Auction Experts
Learn from the experts! Discover the best selling auction items. How to get auction items donated. How to boost attendance. How to get more bids and higher selling prices. How to coordinating volunteers, staff and auction consultants.

www.StepByStepFundraising.com

Grant Writing for Beginners
Learn how to quickly and easily establish relationships with regional foundations and build a strong base of grant support for your nonprofit.

www.WriteGrantProposals.com
Read a Free Excerpt




Index / Subscribe Free / Contact Info / Fundraising Yellow Pages
Fundraising Newsletter / Fundraising Booklets
Fundraising Classifieds / Fundraising Links


ISSN 1530-5813 - Library of Congress, Washington DC, USA
copyright © 1996 - 2010 all rights reserved Fund$Raiser Cyberzine