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Take a fundraising cue from Canada: balance risk for reward

Published about 1 month agoΒ β€’Β 3 min read

This is the 120th Fundraising Writing Newsletter.
If you find value here, please tell your fundraising friends.
​(Your fundraising friends can ​subscribe here for free.)​

In this issue:

βœ… Take a fundraising cue from Canada: balance risk for reward

βœ… VIDEO: 'Win It in a Minute': the fundraising pitfalls of your brand guidelines

βœ… Randomly yours: to inspire and recharge you

​

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

​

Hi Reader,

Brett here:

Did your mom ever say, "Just be home by dinner!" right before you left the house for seemingly endless hours?

My mom did. I remember it fondly.

And now I think of this phrase β€” "Just be home by dinner!" β€” as a shorthand for free range parenting.

When I was growing up in the 70s and 80s, my friends and I roamed for miles within our neighborhood and beyond.

We played meandering group games across multiple yards and streets. We walked or rode bikes to the store (for gum or candy) to the pond (for fishing) to the park (for baseball or tennis) or to the school (for the playground).

This gave us a sense of wild freedom specific to that era β€”before cell phones, ubiquitous video cameras, and social media made our modern society lean into controlling ever more risks in the name of safety.

"Back in my day," parents probably accepted too much risk. These days, we probably accept too little risk.

The Canadian Pediatric Society seems to agree. Last week, it introduced new guidelines for children that call for more "risky play."

You'll notice the table above advocates for more height, more speed, more distance, more impact. The organization also advises balancing risky play with injury prevention.

All this resonates with me because of my many joyous childhood experiences (in spite of nearly dying from a bike fall at age 7) and my current sense of mental wellbeing β€” and it makes me think of how you might . . .


Take a fundraising cue from Canada: balance risk for reward

Certainly, playgrounds and fundraising are two very different things. But I think it's safe to say that avoiding risks at the expense of rewards is a trend we can see in many domains, including fundraising.

Just as most children should probably climb more trees, most fundraisers should probably take more fundraising risks.

Here are some ideas on how you might do that.

Tone/Style:

  1. Use more puns.
  2. Use more talking dogs, trees, rivers, etc.
  3. Include more short sentences and fragments.
  4. Avoid "AI speak" (e.g., "a beacon of...", "imagine...", "hope and healing", and "I hope this letter finds you well").
  5. Have a different person sign the thing if they ever complain "this doesn't sound like me" (but include them in other ways such as on a sticky note or in a cover letter).

Design:

  1. Add a coffee mug ring image.
  2. Add a paperclip image.
  3. Add a spiral notebook with raggedy torn-off bits image.
  4. Skew photos so they're at an angle.
  5. Use donate buttons that appear to be 3D.

Accessibility (for all ages and brains):

  1. Use a large font (e.g., size 14 or 16).
  2. Use more white space (e.g., bigger margins and tracking).
  3. Use less jargon.
  4. Try a lower grade-level readability score (and check it with Hemingway or similar).
  5. Use more repetition for easier skimmability.

Extras:

  1. Add to a direct mail piece something lumpy like a teabag (if you can connect it to your message).
  2. Add to a direct mail piece something noisy like a packet of seeds (see #1).
  3. Add more lift notes from different POVs.

Once you get in the swing of risk taking, the fundraising world will be your super fun, very rewarding playground!


Win It in a Minute:

Tom Ahern and Denisa Casement on brand guidelines

video preview​

This video is a snippet taken from last week's Tom Ahern fundraising newsletter webinar Q&A session. You'll see Tom and special guest Denisa Casement answer an attendee's question about the fundraising pitfalls of your brand guidelines.

You can (and maybe want to?) subscribe here.


Randomly yours: to inspire and recharge you

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

  • Fundraisingly Informative β€” Trends from Friends: 24 nonprofit trends for 2024 by Erin Booker (from FOMO to Data Science, a compendium of ideas of what to look out for this year, from various fundraising thought leaders)​
    ​
  • Charmingly Vocal β€” Billy Joe Armstrong (a rousing podcast episode in which Dax and Monica of Armchair Expert interview the lead singer of the band Green Day ... and after listening, Julie became a Green Day fan)​
    ​
  • Insidiously Problematic β€” Here are some commonly used terms that actually have racist origins​ by Olivia Eubanks (an article that gives you context for why you should probably think twice before using terms like "Indian style," "mumbo jumbo," and "peanut gallery")

Until next time: May you always take risks, reap the rewards, find balance, and feel on top of the world.

Grateful,

PS: We wrote a new (200+ page) book β€” and it's free! Click here to access Heartable Fundraising Writing.

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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. πŸ’› Start by subscribing to our FREE weekly newsletter.

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