7 ways to keep your approval committee out of trouble

Everyone knows that approval committees have a long history of destroying effective fundraising. That’s pretty much baked into the nature of committees.

But you may not be able to simply ban multiple reviews.

Here are some tips for keeping committees on track and out of trouble, from Ann Handley’s Total Anarchy newsletter, at How to Avoid Writing by Committee:

  1. Reinforce the “Big 3” — Intent, goal, and audience. One of the most common ways committees destroy effective fundraising is lack of clarity on all three. (“I don’t like this,” is not valid information, because your committee member is not the audience for fundraising. Ever.
  2. Use a tone of voice guide. Be clear about the tone you use in fundraising. It’s probably less formal and more emotional the the tone people use professionally. That’s on purpose, and committees frequently miss this important point.
  3. Create an outline before you start writing. Put in writing what your fundraising piece is supposed to say, possibly all the way to a detailed outline. If you do this, you aren’t asking the committee an open-ended question like “What should this piece say.” Instead you’re asking a much easier question: “Does this say what we wanted it to say?”
  4. Set clear expectations and a timeline. Give drop-dead, enforced deadlines. Keep them tight. Committees spending too much time not only increases the mischief that might they might commit — you’ll also keep the work on schedule.
  5. Seek an OK, not opinions. Be clear that you aren’t asking for opinions and re-writes. You just want a “good to go.”
  6. Set expectations for the number of approval rounds. One or two is enough. Anything more than that is a self-defeating waste of time.
  7. Own your role. Make sure the committee understands your role in the process as well as you know theirs.


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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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