February 16, 2015

Your personal how-to learning plan

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?


February 4, 2015

Help! I need client stories for fundraising…

Have you ever said that to your program colleagues? Do they respond? Do you have to beg for stories about those your organization serves?

Well… Here’s a great tip from VNA Community Healthcare in CT. The organization is a client of mine.

One day we’re talking about helping program staff share wonderful stories about grateful patients. So we can use those stories in the donor newsletter and in the annual report and on the website and in solicitations and …. Well, you know the drill! What could we do?


We talked about the content and the launch. Michelle Ferguson invented this wonderful announcement and form. She’s setting up displays in the kitchens and other places where staff gathering. She introduced the STORY CONTEST to the management team prior to the formal launch. They liked it! They promised to promote it with their colleagues.

January 28, 2015

Stacks of magazines! I’m so far behind…

I’m so far behind in my magazine reading. Ah Harvard Business Review… I love you and miss you. And there you are… all stacked up on the shelf. I’m so sorry I’m so far behind!

I have snow 2 feet deep in my yard. Generations of deer preceded us on this land where we live. The current 3 large adults are desperately foraging in the snow that’s swamping their bellies.

I have lots of work to do. But I’m distracted by the stacks of magazines. So I’m skimming to see what to keep:

From AFP‘s Advancing Philanthropy, Fall 2014

  • “More than the sum of the parts…What makes a fundraiser?” Paul Lagasse.  Could be useful for my masterclass in Australia in a few weeks.
  • “The Development Committee Workbook: Managing Your Volunteers to Success,” Michele Berard, MBA, CFRE…from here in RI.
  • “Analytics, Schmanalytics – It’s More Than Just Data,” Gilman Sullivan. It’s staff’s job to translate data / information into trends and implications. Come on people. Let’s get it together!

From AFP‘s Advancing Philanthropy, Winter 2015

The whole issue focus on creating a culture of philanthropy. YIPPEE! I’m taking this on the plane to Australia ’cause it’s one of my favorite topics…organizational culture…philanthropic culture…

I first wrote about a culture of philanthropy back in 1996, in the first edition of my book Strategic Fund Development, published in 1997. The book is now in its 3rd edition — and that philanthropic culture (along with organizational culture) is still there. And there’s a handout in the Free Download Library on my website, too.

I’m taking this issue of Advancing Philanthropy on the plane to Australia. Articles by Karla Williams, MA, ACFRE and Andrea McManus, CFRE, great people in our field. Articles about the philanthropic culture affecting morale and boards and donors and fundraisers. This issue is a keeper in my library.

December 1, 2014

Overhead madness

MUST READ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The back and forth at the Agitator (Belford and Craver) …. and all the marvelous comments from people all over the world.

The back and forth at the Critical Fundraising Blog …. at the new Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy in the U.K.

Everyone in your organization should read this… THE WHOLE THING! It’s the comments that count. The original Agitator column stimulates the comments.

I’ll say it again: Read the whole Agitator thing! Now, read the whole Critical Fundraising thing!

And let’s join voices and tell the truth and explain. Explain through stories and metaphors. Don’t explain through data!

Convince some donors and get them to tell the story about why overhead matters.

Let’s launch a donor fight FOR overhead.

Keep up the critique of those silly watchdog groups who made this the center of their evaluations. Then after their leadership in furthering this fiasco… these watch doggies changed their tunes and said something like “of course, overhead isn’t bad; it’s necessary.” (Although they didn’t actually say they had helped further the fiasco and were sorry.)

Join the fight FOR overhead. Tell stories. Get your donors to tell stories about why overhead matters.

November 25, 2014

Interesting – even important – resources

A resource blog, colleagues. So much interesting stuff comes across my desk (and floor… stacks on the floor…the clutter makes me anxious…)

Happy reading. Remember…It’s our job to actually read stuff. Examine the implications and applications for our work, our institutions, our communities.

October 24, 2014

Fundraising from Valros, France

Hi. It’s moi (me) again. Yes, I’m still in France. The guests have left. (We had such fun with sister and cousin and their respective in-law partners.)

So now it’s email every day. And I read a lot and then I want to share with you. So here goes….

Some more research:

  • Ah, fundraising and technology. Check out this research,  2014 Fundraising Technology Trends. In this study with fundraisers, 80% believe that “better technology leads to more effective fundraising.” You’ll also find info about specific tech strategies, software, etc. — all focused on fundraising.
  • Did I already tell you about the newest research from the Nonprofit Research Collaborative? Check out their  “Nonprofit Fundraising Study – Mid-year Update (January – June 2014).” This regular study reviews charitable gifts for Canadian and U.S. charities.

Here are some keepers for all us nonprofit organizations, we leaders, us fundraisers… And some short little things to read and share with your colleagues. Please. Please. S’il vous plaît. Share these with your staff colleagues at an all-staff meeting. Help your program staff and the receptionist and the janitor understand staff.

Short little things to read. Good powerful little things to share. Please please please ….. S’il vous plaît. Share these things with your staff colleagues … Like at the all-staff meeting. This stuff is great to help your program staff and the receptionist and janitor understand stuff. And for your board members, too.

All these people are your ambassadors and your partners in philanthropy and fundraising. Ambassadors… So here’s a great one about brand ambassadors from Seth Godin. I hope you read Seth regularly. Yes, his comments are useful for fundraising and any business and pretty much most lives. Everyone is a brand ambassador for your charity. Everyone!

And there’s more! 

Every single one of these items could be a good conversation starter at your organization. Leaders stimulate conversations. Leaders bring in strategic and cage-rattling conversations to generate perspective and engage in meaningful conversation.

Yes, there is time to have these conversations. Yes, there is time to use conversation as a core business practice. If you cannot find / make the time… then what are you doing?!

Okay. That’s it. Back to vacation.

October 15, 2014

New research – which, of course, fundraisers always read!

Of course, good fundraisers read the new research. And figure out where good research comes from so they can follow good research.

And then, the really good fundraisers make sure that their boss and staff colleagues and board members and the board’s fundraising committee understand the highlights and implications of the research for the organization’s fundraising.

So check out the semi-annual update from the Nonprofit Research Collaborative. Share the infographic with your colleagues.

Also check out the new report from Wealth-X and Arton Capital.

I’m reading them because I expect to learn something.


September 25, 2014

More help for fundraisers… storytelling!

Do you want to raise more money? Do you want to build donor loyalty?

If you do….

I already told you to read Roger Craver’s new book, Retention Fundraising: The New Art and Science of Keeping Donors for Life.

AND NOW… You must read Storytelling Can Change the World by Ken Burnett. Why?

Here’s what Roger Craver says on the front of Ken’s book: “To hell with statistics, policy pronouncements and self-absorbed institutional tripe. The world needs stories, transformational stories that move audiences to action that can change the world. This book shows us how.”

Ken is the first user of the term “relationship fundraising.” And you have to read that book of his. Ken is the inventor of the Showcase for Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration. And you have to visit SOFII regularly.

Ken covers such topics as:

  • Why we tell stories
  • The best sales opportunities you’ll ever have
  • The story of a story
  • Understanding your audience
  • Cornerstones of successful storytelling

We can do this! Go!

September 18, 2014

Oh my gosh…thanking customers

Nonprofits should pay attention to customer research and customer-centered behavior.

Sure…Yes…I know… NGOs can’t spend the money that for-profits spend. But NGOs can certainly think and reflect and focus on donors. NGOs can certainly reach customer research.

Check out the new SOFII website.

Read this wonderful post about making donors feel REALLY special.

Check out the absolutely brilliant videos of the bank and the airline.

YES. I believe that NGOs can be just as creative as for-profit companies. YES. I believe that NGOs can love their donors and show that love.

September 2, 2014

Loyalty is the Holy Grail – And there’s help for you!

Keep your donors!      Retention matters!

And every single organization could use more tips, better art, good science…

Hot off the press. Roger Craver’s new book Retention Fundraising: The New Art and Science of Keeping Your Donors for Life

Get the book NOW! It’s already available at Amazon. Go directly to the publisher, Emerson & Church and buy a couple copies. GREAT gifts for your fundraiser friends or a client. (Yes, I give fundraising books as gift. I know you might think I’m weird.)

Just a few reasons you want THIS BOOK:

  1. Roger is a donor-retention specialist. He invented one of my favorite phrases: “Loyalty is the Holy Grail of fundraising.”
  2. He’s a guru in direct response fundraising… telemarketing…multi-channel fundraising. Roger has worked with names we all know: Common Cause, NOW, WWF, ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Greenpeace…
  3. Roger is 1/2 of The Agitator. You know that great morning blog that gives you so much useful information. Agitator readers come from all over the world. Yes, all over the world (and there are 2 readers in Foster, RI!)
  4. And, for me… I especially respect, admire, and honor Roger for “telling it like it is,” challenging and ranting.
  5. And, if you know Emerson & Church Publishers, you know it publishes short, easy-to-read books that add value immediately. I read the manuscript. Easy. Fast. Apply now.

And, by the way, there is even a complementary website for the book.

Read Retention FundraisingNow is soon enough!


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