13 super-common comments that will crush your fundraising — and how to answer them

There are often a lot of cooks in the fundraising kitchen. Many of them know nothing about cooking.

But that doesn’t keep them from having strong opinions about what does and doesn’t work in fundraising.

Here’s a very helpful post from Hands-On Fundraising that give some of the most common uneducated ideas about fundraising messages: They challenge your fundraising appeal. How should you respond?

I can vouch that these are super-common ideas. And that they are very bad ideas!

  1. Does the letter really have to be two (or four, or more) pages? With very rare exceptions, longer letters work better. This is one of the most dependable truths in direct marketing. The other problem with many short letters: Too get everything in on one page means you must use tiny fonts, long paragraphs, and narrow margins. Almost unreadable.
  2. Why that serif font? It looks so old-fashioned! And why is it so big? In print, serif fonts are much easier to read. As for font size, 12 point is really the smallest size you should use. 13 or bigger is better yet. Ease of reading is one of the most important goals you should have.
  3. I was taught either indents or a space between paragraphs. Why are you using both? Indents and lines between paragraphs both make reading easier. That’s why we use them. Whoever taught you that rule was not as obsessed with readability as they should have been.
  4. That’s a sentence fragment. It’s not grammatically correct. Grammar, schrammar! The goal of fundraising is to be colloquial, easy to read, human, and persuasive. Not follow your elementary teacher’s arbitrary rules.
  5. We don’t begin a sentence with “And” or “But.” That’s another arbitrary rule, not based on anything but a theory of what a sentence is. Sentences start with conjunctions are still sentences. And they can help propel readers forward.
  6. We have all these great statistics about why our work is so important. Why aren’t you using them? Numbers numb. They actively dissuade people from paying attention or taking action. Persuade with stories. That’s how you connect with people.
  7. We have several co-chairs and we want them all to sign. The minute you add more than one signer to a letter, you automatically degrade the writing. Because you are forced to use an excluding “we” instead of a personal “I.” (Multiple signers are sometimes used because it’s believed each of them brings some kind of “star power” to the message. Probably not. But if you really think so, have the second (or more) signer sign a lift note.
  8. Couldn’t we save room if you combined those first two lines? The goal is not to crowd as many words as possible onto the page. It’s to be readable. Short paragraphs are best!
  9. We have a gala coming up. Can’t we throw a mention of it into the P.S.? Many readers read the P.S. first or even only. Whatever it is you most want people to do is what should be in the P.S.

I couldn’t help but add four more common objections we get to professional fundraising:

  1. I don’t use contractions. A letter signer literally wrote this to me one time. The lesson: You do use contractions. Everyone does. When we take them out, we sound like robots!
  2. Our donors are highly educated. We should be writing to them at a post-graduate reading level. Reading ease has nothing to do with education. When writing is easier to read, everyone benefits, no matter how educated they are.
  3. We need to fully explain all our programs so donors will understand us. Donors don’t give to fund your organization. They give to make something happen. When you educate them about your organization, you’re just being irrelevant to them. You raise less money.
  4. I wouldn’t respond to this! Possibly not. But this message is not aimed at you. And your conscious opinion that you wouldn’t respond has no connection at all with whether you’d actually respond.


Comments

2 responses to “13 super-common comments that will crush your fundraising — and how to answer them”

  1. I’m just catching up on my reading, Jeff. Thank you so much for including me. And I LOVE your additions!

  2. I’m just catching up on my reading, Jeff. Thank you so much for including me. And I LOVE your additions!

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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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