How hobbits and other smart beings do fundraising right

It’s tempting to approach any writing task as an adventure taken on a lark.

(Warning: Nerdy Tolkien reference is about to ensue.)

… Like Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit, who basically runs out the door and embarks on a long and dangerous adventure that transforms his life.

Sometimes you get lucky like Bilbo. But do you know what usually happens to adventurers who start that way?

They end up dead. Or the adventure is cut short long before anything good happens.

(Further nerdy Tolkien reference…)

The much longer, more dangers, and more transformative adventure of Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings is carefully planned. There’s a rather long chapter near the beginning (“The Council of Elrond”) that’s all talk, a big meeting with all the stakeholders. (When I read the books to my kids, they’d always beg me to skip “The Council of Elrond” and get on with the action.)

You need your own Council of Elrond for every fundraising project. Not quite that elaborate or time-consuming, but plan the adventure. Know where you’re going, why, how you’re going to get there, and what it will take.

And put it in writing.

Here’s a way to start, thanks to a helpful post at Hands-On Fundraising: How to write a great fundraising appeal. Gather these things:

  • The reason you’re writing.
  • The reason it’s urgent.
  • Who you are writing to.
  • What emotions do you want your readers to feel?
  • A good story.

Write it all down. If you need to argue about the details, do it at this stage — not while writing the actual project.

You’ll save time. Possibly a lot of time. You’ll also have less conflict, and less acrimonious conflict. The job will be more fun.

And you’ll almost surely raise a lot more money.

There’s more — a lot more — like this in my Moceanic online course, Irresistible Communications for Great Nonprofits. It’s a four-part complete masterclass in the surprising things that work in fundraising. Details here. Get $100 OFF by using the coupon code COMMS100 at checkout! (Good until August 3.)


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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.

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