Pixar’s 22 rules of fundraising

by guest blogger Andrew Rogers

Emma Coates, a story artist at Pixar, has listed 22 Rules of Storytelling that help explain why the studio tells great stories so successfully. There’s a lot here for writers in any medium, but some of the rules are particularly adaptable for fundraisers:

Rule 2: You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be very different.

Rule for fundraisers: Put on your donor’s glasses. Does she want to read about the program specifics that obsess insiders? Or would she rather read about how she’s helping transform lives?

Rule 5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.

Rule for fundraisers: Don’t ladle everything your organization does into every appeal. Clearly define a problem your donor can solve, and focus on that.

Rule 7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.

Rule for fundraisers: Have an offer. On a very practical level, many experts recommend writing your reply-device copy first, to make sure you’ve distilled your offer into a simple, clear statement. Then expand that one sentence into a full appeal.

Rule 16: What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.

Rule for fundraisers: What happens if the need isn’t addressed? How are real people being affected? In our case, we should never “stack the odds” by exaggerating or otherwise being less than perfectly truthful. On the other hand, don’t tell less than the full truth either, and remember that the full truth often isn’t very pretty.

Give all 22 of these rules some thought. How would you put them to work?


Comments

2 responses to “Pixar’s 22 rules of fundraising”

  1. Great post. Such basics, and we forget them all the time. We should all put these rules next to our computers as a check list when writing any kind of appeal, campaign copy or blog post. Thanks Jeff!

  2. Great post. Such basics, and we forget them all the time. We should all put these rules next to our computers as a check list when writing any kind of appeal, campaign copy or blog post. Thanks Jeff!

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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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