Thursday, December 16, 2010

Objects in the Mirror Are Closer Than You Think

Due to a family emergency, there will be no post this week.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Feeling Your Way Through End-of-the-Year Fundraising

image via

Sorry I missed posting last week – yesterday was the third anniversary of my husband’s death and I find life gets a little challenging for me around this time of year.

End-of-the-Year Fundraising

Speaking of “this time of year,” here are some thoughts for end-of-the-year fundraising. This generally means a hard copy letter to some folks or an email as well as social media reminders and maybe a few phone calls. This is especially challenging for the (very) small nonprofits, since there’s a lot to do and not too many people to do it. Make it easier on yourself by getting started early (too late for this year, but try to schedule the preparation for next December in November). As part of your preparation, set your priorities:
  • What do you want to ask for – what action do you want the donors to take?
  • What tools will best serve that action?

In another post, I mentioned that you’ve probably got three kinds of donors getting your communications
  • Statistic lovers – 1 out of 100 children has autism
  • People who like recognition – Your donation last year made it possible to send autistic kids to art camp! We couldn’t have done it without you!
  • People who like a story – Meet Ann; until she was able to go to art camp, she’d never painted a picture or taken a photo.

In that post, I also mentioned that your communication should address all three areas: statistics, recognition, and story.

How Do You Feel?

I’ll go a little farther now and say that you should be thinking about what emotion you want to leave the donor with. How do you want them to feel once they’ve read your letter or seen your video or listened to your podcast? Think about it, because emotions tend to get attached to people and things (take a walk around your old neighborhood and see if it doesn’t bring back feelings). Work to tailor your message to deliver the  feeling that you’re striving for; get others to read it or listen to it or see it and get their feedback. Ask specific questions such as, “how did you feel at the end?” or “did you feel rushed or like I was trying to sell you something?”

I know you’re likely not a professional writer or actor or radio host and you probably don’t want to be, since it would take time away from what you’re trying to accomplish. So if you don’t think your skills are up to it, think about getting creative and finding a way to get the professionals you need. Maybe you know someone who’d consider doing something as an in-kind donation or maybe you could get some of the students at the local university communications department interested or you could take advantage of community television or you could swap services with another small nonprofit. It’s worth the effort.

Not that I recommend getting too polished; bells and whistles and a plummy diction aren’t what’s wanted. If your message is clear and connects to the recipient, it’s all good. There’s charm in those communications from small nonprofits that show they don’t get the big grants, but they’re making the most of what they get.


If you haven’t heard of it, this is the online social networking site for nonprofits started by the Facebook CEO. I’d be surprised if you haven’t heard of it because it’s all over Twitter, Mashable, Alltop and a lot of nonprofit blogs. Usually what I see is “How to Complete Your Jumo Profile and Why You Should Participate” or something like that. I’m not going to jump on that bandwagon here. I did take a look and I created an account for a nonprofit and I recommend doing the same. 

It’s not the Next Big Thing (yet, anyway), and it’s still developing so I’m not sure how much return-on-effort you’ll get from it, but it can be very instructional to be part of something like this from the beginning. Twitter didn’t turn out to be what most thought it would be, and those kids who originally played on My Space didn’t envision it becoming a music-oriented social network, I’m sure. If you’re really pressed for time, leave it alone for now, but keep an eye on it. And if you want to learn how to complete a profile for your nonprofit, click here.

By the way, Chronicle of Philanthropy will have a live, online conference with Jumo founder Chris Hughes on Friday the 10th. Here's the information.