Why being direct makes your fundraising work

Hi! How are you? What’s up with this weather lately?

That’s how a lot of normal conversations start. We do that because it’s easy to talk about inconsequential things while we establish connection and gage the mood before we get to our real topics.

Effective direct mail or email fundraising isn’t like this. It doesn’t dally around, but gets suddenly to the topic at hand — which is your money is needed. It tells donors exactly what it wants them to do.

This might make you uncomfortable, because it’s unlike conversation. Maybe it feels bossy and aggressive. Or like you’re treating donors as simpletons.

Get used to it. In fundraising, that greasing-the-skids stuff can cost you.

Direct mail, email, and other ways we reach people directly but not personally are interruptions. We don’t have time to circle around for a while before getting to the point. A direct-mail envelope is in a recipient’s hand for a few seconds before it’s either kept or trashed. An email is under consideration for even less time.

If you make it past that stage, you still have just seconds to make your point.

So get to the point. Tell them why you’re showing up unannounced in their mailbox or inbox.

Ask immediately. Then tell a story and ask again. Compliment your donor’s vision and wonderfulness. Then ask again. Don’t do anything that’s not connected to your ask.

That’s how powerful fundraising works.

(This post first appeared on February 10, 2016.)


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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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