February 16, 2015

An email from Ashley, executive director of RIUDL: “I’m creating a self-directed course: Do Whatever Simone and Tom Tell You To Do (Mostly) 101. Inserting the mostly just to be sure to keep it legit. I mean, you never know…”

She sent her email to Tom Ahern. (She’s already reading my books!) She wanted Tom’s top 3. And here is his response.

  1. To learn the basics of direct mail, Mal Warwick’s How to Write Successful Fundraising Appeals (updated 2013 to include emailed appeals). Classic, essential, especially if you’re not going to learn by doing commercial direct mail (the cauldron; where I got my training).
  2. To learn absurdly great presentation skills from a money-making master, Jerry Weissman’s Presenting to Win. This will give you deep confidence in front of big donors. They will actually enjoy hearing you.
  3. To learn how to think about talking to donors, Jeff Brooks’ The Fundraiser’s Guide to Irresistible Communications. He’s the top fundraising copywriter in America, in my and many opinions.
  4. Since direct mail is still so vastly important in fundraising, I’ll read any time-tested how-to, whether fundraising or not. I recently read Siegfried Vögele’s Handbook of Direct Mail (translated from the German; a truly core book — Mal Warwick’s references it in his book). It describes how to use our native eye-motion habits to lead a reader through a piece of direct mail. Since it has to do with designing direct mail as much as anything, it can be used equally well for fundraising as commercial.
  5. Then there’s Eugene Schwartz’ 1960’s re-issued classic, Breakthrough Advertising. If you aspire to be a true direct mail and direct response advertising geek (I did, do, and am). then this is a book for you.
  6. I’ve also recently picked up some neat psychological ideas from a book called The Why Axis, Gneezy (yes, real name) and List. They explain a lot of Smile Train’s success as an exploding new charity.
  7. Website content creation and navigation….Nobody is better than Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think! Guess what his key insight is? He’ll make Precious laugh, too. It’s like a how-to book written by a stand-up comic.
  8. How to always find a story: Pulitzer Prize-winner, Donald Murray, wrote Writing to Deadline: The Journalist at Work. The book was for front-line journalists who need to produce interesting stories fast … and often run out of ideas. Chapters include “Tricks of the Writing Trade.” Never have writer’s block again.
  9. Grammar checking: AP Stylebook, lastest edition
So how’s that for a list?


About Simone Joyaux

A consultant specializing in fund development, strategic planning, and board development, Simone P. Joyaux works with all types and sizes of nonprofits, speaks at conferences worldwide, and teaches in the graduate program for philanthropy at Saint Mary’s University, MN. Her books, Keep Your Donors and Strategic Fund Development, are standards in the field.

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