“Shake well” fundraising: Your path to results

You’ve seen it a zillion times on creamer, fruit juice, or shampoo containers:

SHAKE WELL

You know what it means. You know what to do. It works and you don’t even think about it.

But I’ll tell you a secret: As effortless as SHAKE WELL is, they didn’t get to it quickly or easily.

I made up the story that follows. But I bet I’m not far off from how it really went.

The first time a product came out that needed to be shaken by the customer before use the makers wanted to give their valued customers that direction. Here’s what the first draft may have looked like:

In order to precipitate any solids that may have settled during manufacture, shipping, and retail distribution of this quality product, be sure to agitate the contents by rapidly moving back and forth for at least 3-5 seconds, then use immediately.

The person who wrote it had a solid and in-depth understanding of the product and why shaking it well was important. That’s why they wrote this “curse of knowledge” version of SHAKE WELL.

What they didn’t understand was that people don’t need to know why they should shake the product. They either already get it, or don’t care. Probably both. They also don’t need detailed instructions on how to shake well, even though there is some small danger they might get it wrong.

I imagine consumer research showed that many people weren’t reading the 40-word paragraph, while others were misunderstanding it, the result was not many people were shaking well. They were not getting the result they needed.

It may have taken months (maybe years?) of research and new drafts of the instructions before they finally arrived at the sweet spot: SHAKE WELL.

And I’ll bet some people at the company thought such simplistic instruction was an utter travesty, because it didn’t educate the consumer much at all.

Fundraising often goes like this. You start with what you know. But you know way too much. Your working assumption is that if you can transfer all of your knowledge over to your donors, they’ll donate.

That might work except for one problem: Few of them are at all interested in taking in all the information. They have their own lives to live!

So you simplify, and simplify, and simplify.

The quicker you can move past your need to explain how everything works and why it’s important, the sooner you’ll be doing effective fundraising.


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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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