Newspaper ink rub-off and blameless fundraisers — what you can do

Remember newspapers? When you read them, the low-quality ink on the low-quality paper rubs off onto your hands. Read the Sunday paper, and your hands get black and gritty. It’s kind of gross.

Ink rub-off is one of the most common complaints newspapers get from readers. In fact, ink rub-off is probably part of the reason for the decline of newspapers: You don’t get grimy hands by reading your news on your phone.

The people who put out newspapers put a lot of energy into doing it right. Ethics, fairness, good writing, high journalistic standards, good design …

I bet not one in a hundred of those dedicated professionals ever thinks about ink rub-off. As far as they’re concerned, it has nothing to do with their job.

But that doesn’t keep it from being a real irritant in the experience of newspaper readers.

What is your organization’s “ink rub-off”? Is there something that has nothing to do with the things you work hard to do well … yet it creates a negative experience for your donors?

Could it be a confusing website that makes it hard to give or find the information they want?

Could it be misspellings in donors’ names that don’t get fixed?

Could it be irrelevant messages that the donor doesn’t want?

Could it be that you’re renting out donors’ names at a high rate, subjecting them to extreme levels of unwanted mail?

If you’re a fundraiser, you can legitimately say that things like these have nothing to do with you.

But they have everything to do with the experience of your donors. And it’s going to impact their likelihood of giving.

So you need to understand the “ink rub-off” issues. And fix them.


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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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About the blogger

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.