Two ways to be a better nonprofit — and raise more funds

A great way to do better fundraising is to be better.

Let me tell you about something that’s better. It’s a line of blank notebooks called Moleskine. The small one that I use costs around $10. Pretty dumb, huh? I could get a notebook at the drugstore for under $2. And every time I go to a conference I bring home two or three little notebooks for free.

Moleskine

Yet I shell out ten bucks for a Moleskine. Because it’s better than the other options:

1. It has better features

The paper is acid free, so it won’t turn brown and crumble in a few years. The pages are rounded off, so they don’t get dog-eared. It’s bound so it can lie open flat. There’s a ribbon bookmark. There’s an elastic strap that holds it shut. The oilcloth cover looks and feels nice.

All around, it’s well made and a pleasure to use.

Other manufacturers have noticed and are selling high-end notebooks. Some probably even better than Moleskine. Or at a lower cost. That’s why Moleskine’s second advantage is so important …

2. It has a better story

This isn’t just any notebook. It’s been around for a long time, and was supposedly used by some very cool people, like Picasso, Van Gogh, Mallarmé, and Hemingway.

Travel writer Bruce Chatwin was obsessed with his Moleskines. Part of the story is that the original manufacturer died; when Chatwin tried to buy some at his favorite Paris bookshop, he was told, “Le vrai moleskine n’est plus.” That quote is always in French in the Moleskine story — it flatters me that they tell it to me without a translation — of course I understand the (very easy) French!

Moleskine reeks of creativity, sophistication, and quality. The features and the story come together to make it almost irresistible. I know writers who swear Moleskine notebooks are part of what makes them able to write well.

Can you do this with your nonprofit mission? Actually make it better and give it a better story? Think about it…

How to create better features

  • You could be noticeably more effective than the usual organization. But it would have to be in a way the non-experts could understand and appreciate.
  • You could leverage donors’ gift in some powerful way.
  • You could acknowledge donors’ giving in some very exciting way.
  • You could make donors part of a community or group that they love belonging to.

How to tell a better story

  • Connect with your donors’ aspirations better than others.
  • Really give them something they can brag about when they give.
  • Connect to a great heritage that donors would be proud to be part of. (This might be an especially powerful for some religious and cultural organizations.)
  • Have amazing spokespersons (living or dead).
  • Strongly affirm donors’ beliefs about themselves.

You can’t make this stuff up. You have to make it real.

But it’s possible to make it real, if your entire organization is part of the effort.

And the reward? How cool would it be to become the “Moleskine of Nonprofits”?

(This post first appeared on May 3, 2017.)


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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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