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I have aphantasia. Do your donors?

Published 6 months agoΒ β€’Β 5 min read

So nice to see you! It's the 103rd issue of the Fundraising Writing Newsletter! If this newsletter brings you any value, please share it with your lovely peeps. (Your lovely peeps can ​subscribe here for free.)​

In this issue:

  • I have aphantasia. Do your donors?
  • September 14th: Tom Ahern's appeal writing webby
  • Randomly yours: to inspire and recharge you
  • Win It in a Minute

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Hi Reader,

Brett here:

One thing Julie always rolls her eyes at me for is when I say:

"I have aphantasia."

To be fair, I've said this a lot over the past few years. And Julie's great about overlooking my flaws. AND it's not just her: Our friends feel the same. They've memorialized it by awarding me this wee trophy I keep beside my Mac:

My wee trophy boasts this inscription:

In case of blurriness, here's what it says:

Monday Night Trivia
"I have aphantasia."
Brett Cooper, 2020-2021

Yes, even during Zoom trivia nights I hosted during Covid, I couldn't resist telling my friends, family, and other trivia folk in attendance about my discovery: that all my life I've had aphantasia ... and until recently, I never knew.

So: aphantasia is basically the inability to form a mental picture of anything. I don't "see it" as most people do. I only "conceive of it." I get the idea.

For my friends without aphantasia, I like to describe this as like shuffling to the bathroom late at night in the dark, having a sense of where things are spatially from memory. I'm in the dark yet I find my way because I know where everything is, more or less.

When people say, "Picture yourself at a beach..." (etc.), there is no beach in my mind. There is the idea of a beach.

When I read a book, there's no movie in my mind's eye, no flashes of images helping me to keep track of who and what and where. I just try to memorize. And, as you might imagine, I read slowly.

It's not all bad. I can watch a horror movie and then fall fast asleep without fear or bad dreams. I can think of the future without seeing anxious-making scenarios.

This is why I wouldn't trade in my aphantasia, if such a possibility were on offer. It works for me. I like it.

You likely do not have aphantasia. It's estimated that 2-4% of the population does. Evidently, there's a continuum. My friend Kelly is at the extreme other end. She reads often and fast. Her mind, she explains, is like a silver screen. (Her job: elementary school librarian.)

What about you?

What about your donors?

I have aphantasia. Do your donors?

During a recent client meeting about an upcoming appeal letter we'll be writing, we were asked this question:

"How do you determine what stories to choose?"

This is a common question, for good reason.

If you're lucky, you're surrounded by fundraising stories. If you're extra lucky, you've met the people involved and you know many of the details. If you're not so lucky, you may have only a few story options.

In any case, it's important that you carefully decide which story to feature for an appeal ... and which details to focus on.

As someone with aphantasia, I advise you to write with people like me in mind. Choose stories with details that help me "to conceive it" (and help others to "see it.") This way, you maximize the chances your donors will "feel it."

When you're reviewing potential stories, notice what you're powerfully picturing in your mind's eye (or, if you too have aphantasia, notice what you're powerfully conceiving of).

If you can really "see it" or "conceive of it" β€” and it gives you a strong feeling and represents the problem and/or the transformative impact you want to convey β€” then go with that story and those details.

For example, for the client mentioned above, when we first worked with them last year they wanted to keep the appeal to two pages and feature a matching fund offer. So there was little room for a detailed story.

The following screenshot mentions suicide.

Please take care while reading.

Here's an excerpt featuring the kind of detail you should be looking for:

The image of "a last kiss on her forehead" is strong. It's easy to see or conceive of it. It's easy to feel it. It creates an evocative moment for donors to experience prior to reading the offer of how they can help.

By being inclusive of all your donors, no matter where they fall along the phantasia continuum, you'll maximize the feelings that lead the heart to prompt the brain to make a giving decision.

Your donors want those feelings!

Your donors love to give!


September 14th: Tom Ahern's appeal writing webby

Can you see yourself there?

Have you registered for Tom Ahern's appeals writing webinar on September 14th?

If so, yay!

If not . . . and you are now or soon will be writing your year-end appeal . . . and you do not feel 100% confident . . .

. . . then I urge you to learn all about Tom's webby here.

(featuring guest expert Jeff Brooks

and moderator Julie Cooper!)

You can register via this informational page.

Or you can click this friendly red button:

After the webinar, you’ll receive learning materials including a video replay of the full 1.5-hour training plus the extensive Q&A session (which can last for hours!).

Randomly yours: to inspire and recharge you

For your brain, heart, and funny bone...

  • Fundraisingly Informative β€” Fundraising is a Gift an Organization Gives by Steven Screen (a blog post about how fundraising is not a dirty word but a great gift: to your beneficiaries, to your donors, and to your community)​
  • Surprisingly Wired β€” Why marketers’ picture of seniors is getting old by Kelly Twohig (a "Think with Google" article featuring insights such as: "A majority of online seniors spend at least six hours a day online and own an average of five devices.")​
  • Astoundingly Gargantuan β€” World Record Catfish (amazing 1-minute video in which a professional fisherman immersed in a muddy river in Lombardy, Italy, catches, cradles in his arms, and then releases a 9-foot long catfish; giving it a kiss near its tail as he lets it swim away)​
  • Strategically Lucky β€” The Art & Science of Luck by Sahil Bloom (a blog post featuring ancient and modern wisdom about doing things that are "Pro-Luck," avoiding things that are "Anti-Luck," and being aware of the "Luck Razor")
  • Mind-bogglingly Automatic β€” Smart automation at its finest via Alvin Foo (a mesmerizing 2-minute video showing modern agricultural automation for a number of crops including radishes, carrots, corn, and wheat)

Until next time: May you ever empower your donors to fully "see it" or "conceive of it" so they can fully feel the problem and understand why their help is needed.

All our best,

PS: Here's an old favorite from our weekly video series, Win It in a Minute. You can (and maybe want to?) subscribe here.

Brett asks Baye, our son who we adopted from Ethiopia in 2006: β€œWhen you played soccer at the orphanage, what kind of ball was it?”

(This interview prompted the sharing of strong details that would be powerful for donors to read about in an appeal letter because they lend themselves to "seeing it" or "conceiving of it" and then "feeling it.")

Click below for Baye's answer...

video preview​

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