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Nonprofits in the Know
Phil-Com's second online class, Fundraising 101: How to Fund Your Nonprofit Organization has received approval by CFRE International to count as Continuing Education credit.
You can now read a compilation of nine Nonprofits in the Know articles on Kindle for $2.99 or for free with Kindle Unlimited.
Beware of Chicken Little Fundraising!!
 
 
Underlines. Exclamation points! Hyperbole. Italics. Bold. And my favorite: the best the world has ever seen combo!!
 
Nonprofits will go to great lengths to grab people’s attention in the ongoing effort to raise funds. In general, this willingness to do whatever it takes is commendable. But when it comes to direct mail appeals (and even email communications), a bit of restraint can go a long way. Underlines and exclamation points should be used sparingly, not as a staple. And describing your organization as on the verge of closing its doors is never a good idea.
 
Does saying you are almost at the point of closing your organization inspire people to give? Or does it make them wonder if you are even sustainable, if you manage money poorly, and if an investment in your organization would be wasted because you will be out of commission in a month?
 
Along the same lines, if every communication you send out makes things sound as though they are as dire as they can possibly get… won’t people stop believing you after a while? My example of this is a nonprofit with a social mission that is affected by political measures; I support the organization and believe in their mission. But, they have a tendency towards missives that virtually try to scream off the page. And every single time it is because something is happening that is the worst possible scenario ever!! When I once inquired about why the organization did this, the answer I got was that it was “proven” that this is the type of communication their supporters responded to and and expected to see. Fair enough- if you show me market research that backs up that statement, I will humbly bow and admit that my way MAY NOT always be the right way. (Yes, I just did that.)
 
But if the "market research" was, in fact, anecdotal comments from years ago, and the organization is still assuming that because it once worked that it always will, they may have some reassessing to do. Here is my personal market research: I really care about the organization I mentioned and its mission and plan to continue my support, but I’ve stopped opening their emails. What!? It is true. Because it is hard to filter through the hyperbole to determine what is real and what is hype. If one or two situations are presented as “the sky is falling”, then my reaction might be heightened awareness and immediate response. But if every single thing is presented as a falling sky, then I get desensitized to the message, my eyes glaze over, and I start to assume that a communication from them will be more of the same. The message may not be an exaggeration, but I will start to believe it is, because it isn’t possible to stay that desperate 24/7.  
 
This doesn’t mean you should never play around with visuals. Right now, using various fonts and font sizes in marketing is big. It looks cool and it gets attention. So by all means, use it on your brochure or annual report or on infographics.
 
In
Writing Winning Direct Mail Appeals we discussed styles of appeals and that storytelling is key. You will gain people’s support at a more emotional level with photos and stories than you will with font tricks. And the emotional level is where you want to be. I am much more likely to give a gift to your organization if you help me understand how hard a mom is trying to keep her kids fed and out of homelessness, rather than you underlining the word hungry six times.
 

Tracy Vanderneck, MSM, CFRE
President, Phil-Com
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