7 pieces of really bad advice for your year-end appeal — and why you should ignore them

Fundraisers get a lot of free advice about fundraising from non-fundraisers.

Much of it really, really bad advice.

It’s like taking medical advice from your crazy uncle who says nobody is getting COVID-19 anymore, or that windmills cause cancer. It’s okay to ignore bad advice!

Here are some common pieces of bad fundraising advice from Hands-On Fundraising, at Getting grief about your year-end appeal?

  1. Our brand guidelines demand a sans serif font. Most sans-serif fonts are much harder to read than most serif fonts. If your brand guidelines dictate a hard-to-read font, you need to seriously rethink them.
  2. What’s with all that space? White space — space between paragraphs, wide margins — also improve readability. People are far more likely to donate when they read your message.
  3. That isn’t grammatically correct. You don’t want to be needlessly sloppy, but it’s more important to be colloquial than correct.
  4. We have some great statistics! Your donors aren’t going to give because you have an airtight case, bolstered with numbers. In fact, those things more likely turn donors away. You need to win them over with stories and word.jpgctures. That’s what works in fundraising.
  5. We do such good work! Let’s share the good news. Your donors give to solve problems and make the world better. When you show them how awesome a job you’ve been doing, you’re really saying, “No need to give. We’ve got it covered.” Success stories are for when you report back to donors on the impact if their giving. Not when you want them to take action.
  6. I would never read a letter that long. Maybe not. But longer letters virtually always raise more money than shorter ones. This is one of the most dependable truths in fundraising. Yes, it’s weird. But it’s true.
  7. I don’t sound like that. Few people will notice whether the message really has your voice. Even fewer will care. And much more important than capturing someone’s voice is actually catching and holding donors’ attention and motivating them to action. And that is usually not possible while being faithful to someone’s voice.


Comments

4 responses to “7 pieces of really bad advice for your year-end appeal — and why you should ignore them”

  1. Jeff ~ I very much enjoy your blogs and they are quite helpful to me in fundraising for our non-profit. In today’s blog, items 2 and 5 have misspelled words. I notice that in several of your blogs. Do you have a proofreader? Sharon ~~~><)))o>

  2. Jeff ~ I very much enjoy your blogs and they are quite helpful to me in fundraising for our non-profit. In today’s blog, items 2 and 5 have misspelled words. I notice that in several of your blogs. Do you have a proofreader? Sharon ~~~><)))o>

  3. It’s just me. No proofer. I made the decision long ago to do it this way, knowing it means typos will slip through, for two reasons: 1. I can’t afford a proofreader; 2. Even if I could afford it, it would slow down posting by a day or more; 3. This is a blog, not a publication — typos are annoying, but not the worst thing. I can fix the typos. Thanks for pointing them out!

  4. It’s just me. No proofer. I made the decision long ago to do it this way, knowing it means typos will slip through, for two reasons: 1. I can’t afford a proofreader; 2. Even if I could afford it, it would slow down posting by a day or more; 3. This is a blog, not a publication — typos are annoying, but not the worst thing. I can fix the typos. Thanks for pointing them out!

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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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