[Book review] The one thing you need to know about fundraising (and every other kind of writing)

Book review: Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t: And Other Tough-Love Truths to Make You a Better Writer by Steven Pressfield

Readyourshitcover

The title of this book is some of the advice you’ll ever get as a fundraiser. Once you know and internalize this truth, you can stop wasting your (and your donors’) time. And get on with fundraising that just might work.

According to Pressfield, this is the deal between every writer and reader:

The reader donates his time and attention, which are supremely valuable commodities. In return, you the writer must give him something worthy of his gift to you.

Wow! That’s it: the skeleton key that can eventually unlock nearly every fundraising challenge. Give your donors something worthy of their give of time and attention.

This book is not at all about fundraising. It’s about several other forms of writing, including fiction, screenwriting, marketing, self-help, and pornography (don’t worry — there’s nothing untoward in the book other than, well, its title).

But as a smart fundraiser, you’ll instantly see how to apply the it’s-about-the-reader-dammit principles to work. He even gives a three-step formula that every one of us could use:

  1. Streamline your message. Focus it and pare it down to its simplest, clearest, easiest-to-understand form.
  2. Make its expression fun … make it so compelling that a person would have to be crazy NOT to read it.
  3. Apply that to all forms of writing or art or commerce.

The book is aimed at bringing self-focused writers down to earth. As long as you think your writing is about you expressing all your amazing thoughts, ideas, insights, and awesomeness … you are going nowhere as a writer. But the moment you realize writing is about the reader, you are suddenly free to write things people will want to read. You’ll actually connect! You might influence them. You might even make money.

Or, if you’re a fundraiser, you can start raising serious funds for your cause.

Highly recommended.

(This post first appeared on March 6, 2018.)


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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.