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✨ Remember when fundraising was…?

Published 7 months ago • 6 min read

Well hello! It's the 102nd issue of the Fundraising Writing Newsletter! If this newsletter makes you feel some kind of way, please take a moment to forward this to your lovely peeps. (Your lovely peeps can ​subscribe here for free.)

In this issue:

  • Remember when fundraising was…?
  • Announcing: Tom Ahern's "Writing In-House Direct Mail Appeals (E-appeals Too!) That Work" webinar
  • Randomly yours: to inspire and recharge you
  • Win It in a Minute

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Hi Reader,

Is there a more powerful question than “Remember when…?

It’s active — it makes you think.

It’s inclusive — it implies a shared experience.

It’s fun — it usually rustles up a herd of feral warm fuzzies.

Not that the question itself is so important. It’s all about the nostalgia.

Just this morning, our 19-year-old son Mickey asked Brett, “What’s your favorite memory of us together?”

They proceeded to volley buoyant memories and settled on (spiked? 🤔) one involving a rambunctious, furniture-vaulting game of indoor tag, back when Mickey was about thrice smaller than he is now.

There were grins and hearty laughs, and Mickey parted with his customary: “Love you, Pops” followed by Brett’s choice reply: “Love you, Mops.”

Nostalgia is likewise key in: why we collect the music of our childhood; why sequels rule the cineplexes; why we pass along traditions — with reverence — to the dearest of our loved ones.

And nostalgia ain't merely active, inclusive, and fun. According to this National Geographic article, it's surprisingly beneficial — serving as a psychological bridge connecting our past, present, and future selves.

Our fond memories are far beyond comfort food. They increase our well-being and inspire us to make the future better for ourselves and others.

But how can you harness this extraordinary emotional melange in your fundraising efforts?

✨ Remember when fundraising was…?

…different … better … brand new to you?


I pose the question as a reminder. If indeed you just now recalled a fond fundraising memory, you’re feeling some kind of way. The door to your heart is open. And the heart is the gateway to the mind.

So I recommend you include nostalgia in your donor comms to treat your supporters to feelings of warmth, belonging, and optimism. They're as tasty as the Halloween candy dumped out of a plastic jack-o-lantern onto your childhood family room floor.

(Maybe you used to spread out all your trick-or-treats and sort them, just for kicks? I did!)

Donors love to indulge their nostalgic sweet tooth. You should too. Because as they’re patting their tummies, they’re savoring a lasting emotional connection with your organization.

Here are 4 tips you can apply today to add to your donor comms a dash of the fundraising spice we call nostalgia:

Traditional Letter Structure

Make your appeal look like a traditional letter. Start with "Dear" in the salutation, use indented paragraphs for direct mail letters, and don't forget the PS.

This is a structure donors are familiar with — especially your older donors. (And older donors make up a majority of your list, no doubt!)

It's also personal. 💛 It evokes a feeling of genuine conversation.

Stay away from “letters” that look like marketing pieces or ads. Aim for something along these lines:

Classic Typewriter Fonts

Your donors who are over the age of 45 probably learned to type on a typewriter. 🙋🏻‍♀️ The clatter of keys on paper might be a thing of the past, but the visual essence of a typewriter font can bring back those viscerally powerful tactile memories of fingertips clack-clack-clacking away.

It's authentic, and it connects. Hence, you may want to try a typewritery font such as Courier for your next appeal!

Familiar Phrases or Expressions

Using familiar, time-honored phrases in your fundraising can stir up potent feelings of donor nostalgia by tapping into universally recognized truths, shared values, and common human experiences.

Here are some examples of nostalgic expressions that can evoke strong emotions by connecting to ideals, traditions, and/or virtues that your donors hold dear.

"The winds of change" — i.e., significant transformation

"A helping hand" — i.e., assistance or support

"Sowing the seeds of change" — i.e., initiating ideas for future growth or transformation

"A ray of sunshine" — i.e., something that brings happiness or positivity

"A stitch in time saves nine" — i.e., taking care of problems right away to prevent more issues in the future

"Salt of the earth" — i.e., a person who is humble and without pretensions

"The road less traveled" — i.e., choosing an unconventional or less popular path

"An anchor in the storm" — i.e., stable support during turbulent times

"Holding the torch for" — i.e., carrying on a worthy idea, cause, or tradition

"A guiding light" — i.e., someone who guides or leads

"The fabric of society" — i.e., the shared values and traditions that bind a community together

"Turning over a new leaf" — i.e., a fresh start, or changing one's behavior for the better

"A shoulder to lean on" — i.e., emotional support or comfort

Handwritten Notes

For many people, especially from older generations, handwritten notes were (once upon a time) a primary means of communication.

The act of writing and receiving personal, handwritten letters can bring your donors back to the time when this was common practice: evoking precious memories that might include their friends, family, special occasions...

You certainly don’t have enough time to write personal notes to all your donors all the time. Yet using a handwriting font (sparingly) in your appeal can add a personal touch, making your connection feel closer and more sincere.

In evoking nostalgia, we aren't merely reminiscing about the good old days — we're building bridges across time, from a (typically) treasured past, through the messy middle of the present, to a very promising future.

As a fundraiser, you hold in your hands "the power of the pen." With carefully-drawn nostalgia, you can craft lasting connections and prompt your donors to support your cause and really feel the essence of your hopeful vision for a brighter tomorrow.

They deserve it — and you do too. ❤️

Announcing: Tom Ahern's "Writing In-House Direct Mail Appeals (E-appeals Too!) That Work" webinar

Speaking of brighter tomorrows…

Here’s what Tom Ahern says about his upcoming webinar on September 14th: Writing In-House Direct Mail Appeals (E-appeals Too!) That Work Because They Follow Simple Guidelines!


Ahoy! "Giving season" cometh....

Which makes NOW the perfect time to prepare for your next

> 2023 year-end appeal!

Step 1: Deep breaths. (You'll do fine, with training.) Step 2: Review, refresh (or learn for the first time?) best practices for year-end appeals.

Welcome to the best training available on how to write successful year-end appeals ... and, good news, it's affordable.

This MEGA-webinar is for YOU > and YOU > and YOU ... smaller (even start-up) nonprofits; mid-level nonprofits; HUGE nonprofits, too.

We've worked with fundraising clients of all kinds at all levels; for years; through heaven and hell (and 2023's year-end effort could be tough, according to the 2022 GivingUSA report, which found individual giving down deeply post-pandemic).

Julie here:

Tom Ahern’s webinar is in less than a month from now: on September 14th. Our special guest expert will be the legendary fundraising copywriter/thought leader Jeff Brooks! I will be moderating. Brett will be behind the scenes, making tech-sure you have a great experience.

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!).

Learn more? Register now? Click here.

Randomly yours: to inspire and recharge you

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

  • Fundraisingly InformativeJust for you: quick tips to boost your fundraising writing by Mary Cahalane (8 great tips for you to mull over as you gear up for your year-end fundraising)
  • Relatively Happy The Unhappy Millionaire ICYMI via The Happiness Lab with Dr. Laurie Santos (a 40-minute podcast episode about the psychology behind why and how we overestimate how happy and how sad certain possible futures will make us)
  • Positively Artificial Paralyzed NY man can move and feel again — thanks to AI ‘miracle’ surgery by Alex Mitchell (an article about the history-making tech news involving a man whose brain, body, and spinal cord were successfully linked together electronically)
  • Urgently Imminent OpenAI to Unleash New Web Crawler to Devour More of the Open Web by Jose Antonio Lanz (an article about how the people behind ChatGPT are giving you a chance to opt your website out before their little robots crawl the internet for more and newer heaps of data)
  • Colorfully Persuasive But I'm SIX via @SwearingKids (a 90-second video of a six-year-old Irish girl adorably arguing with her mother that she should be able to go to the pub as her friend does — throwing her father under the bus in the process)

Until next time: May you always fondly remember who you are and where you came from, and help your donors do the same.

All our best,

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

Julie asks Tom: “What is meant by the phrase ‘warming up the reader’s brain?'

Click below for Tom's answer...

video preview

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Hi! We're Julie Cooper and Brett Cooper, fundraising copywriters for great causes. Does your fundraising bring in as much money as it could? You can send donor communications that stir hearts to action. We'd love to help. 💛 Start by subscribing to our FREE weekly newsletter.

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