Harness the power of simplicity

A bearded Middle Eastern holy man stood up and told a story about a traveler who was attacked by robbers and left for dead.

There wasn’t much to the story. It was well under 200 words long — just a paragraph, once it was written down. But it covered a lot of ground. It was about the power of good deeds. Our duty as humans toward other humans. What matters most in life. Why we shouldn’t be prejudiced against others. And a lot more.

We know that story today as the Parable of the Good Samaritan. It’s a masterpiece of making deep and complex ideas simple, clear and compelling. You can build your life around that story. Many people have.

Fundraising needs to be like that: Clear. Compelling. And most of all, simple.

This is a real challenge for many nonprofit professionals. You’re good at what you do because you mastered the complexity of your organization’s work. You appreciate the depth and the nuances. You know the rules and the exceptions. You know all the shades of gray.

All of that gets you nowhere in fundraising.

No matter how complex your organization’s work is, your fundraising must boil it down to something simple. The one-sentence version.

It is likely to make you uncomfortable. But if you insist on sharing complexity with your donors, you will lose most of them.

Just remember, there’s simplicity at the heart of every complex system. Finding it and expressing it takes hard work.


Comments

4 responses to “Harness the power of simplicity”

  1. And using modern performance managment techniques, one can prove that the Good Samaritan had no effect, or at best was guilty of “results not demonstrated.”
    Here’s the entry on my blog, “The Good Samaritan and Performance Measurement” that elaborates on this.
    http://cfctreasures.wordpress.com/2008/04/26/the-good-samaritan-and-performance-measurement/
    Regards,
    Bill Huddleston
    The CFC Coach
    new email: BillHuddleston1 at gmail dot com

  2. And using modern performance managment techniques, one can prove that the Good Samaritan had no effect, or at best was guilty of “results not demonstrated.”
    Here’s the entry on my blog, “The Good Samaritan and Performance Measurement” that elaborates on this.
    http://cfctreasures.wordpress.com/2008/04/26/the-good-samaritan-and-performance-measurement/
    Regards,
    Bill Huddleston
    The CFC Coach
    new email: BillHuddleston1 at gmail dot com

  3. Dear Jeff,
    Thanks for writing about simplicity in fundraising text.
    I think it doesn’t matter so much what you say, as long as you can cut to the heart of the matter quickly, and get people to care.
    And of course, to cut to the heart of the matter, you’ve got to write simply. Like Hemingway, who cut every 3 syllable word into a 2 syllable word, and who cut every 2 syllable word into a 1 syllable word.
    He had a great respect for language, and as fundraisers, we all do, I believe. Words are powerful.
    Mazarine

  4. Dear Jeff,
    Thanks for writing about simplicity in fundraising text.
    I think it doesn’t matter so much what you say, as long as you can cut to the heart of the matter quickly, and get people to care.
    And of course, to cut to the heart of the matter, you’ve got to write simply. Like Hemingway, who cut every 3 syllable word into a 2 syllable word, and who cut every 2 syllable word into a 1 syllable word.
    He had a great respect for language, and as fundraisers, we all do, I believe. Words are powerful.
    Mazarine

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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