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What my 102-yr-old stepdad taught me about donors

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

This is the 125th 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… What my 102-yr-old stepdad taught me about donors

βœ… Randomly yours: to inspire and recharge you

​

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

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Hi Reader,

Brett here:

My stepdad Arthur "Bud" Zwierlein died in September at age 102. I miss him, of course, but I'm holding onto how fortunate I was to have him in my life for 30 years, since my mom married again after my dad's death in 1992.

Bud was an inspiration to many. He skippered a crash boat in the Navy in World War II. (Because: "Who wouldn't want to?" he'd exclaim.) He biked, golfed, and skied into his 90s.

I hate to say anything positive about taxes, but it's because I'm helping my mom put her finances in order for her tax accountant that I've found I'm still learning from Bud...


What my 102-yr-old stepdad taught me about donors

One of the things I'm documenting for the tax accountant is mom and Bud's charitable givings from 2023. (Bud took care of their finances.)

One thing I learned is that he held onto appeal letters, scrawling notes on them to track how much he gave.

Keep in mind that this is a man who retired 40 years ago, in the 80s, and has been living on a modest fixed income ever since.

Here's one example. This photo shows an appeal Bud gave to β€” $25 to the Wounded Warrior Project on 3/19/23:

Here's another from a few days later β€” $25 to United States Olympic & Paralympic Foundation on 3/23:

And this one from the following month β€” $25 to the USO on 4/18:

This spreadsheet Julie created shows all the donations Bud made before he stopped giving in the 5 months of declining health prior to his death 😒:

Okay, so what have I learned/confirmed from Bud?

Three things:

  1. A person usually gives in the same amount. Of twelve donations Bud made in his final three months of giving, ten were $25, one was $30, and one was $50. (For individual giving, be sure you keep asking for donations using ask strings based on previous giving.)
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  2. A person who's lived for many years can be very generous. Giving $250 in three months (not counting church donations) for someone from a household on a fixed budget represents the kindhearted habit of philanthropy often embraced by a donor aged 65+. (Be sure you write in a way that is likely to resonate with your older donors.)
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  3. Direct mail appeal letters are not simply ASKs; they're tangible physical records that may be kept and handled and reviewed more than once. They are less ephemeral, more substantial, and therefore more effective than digital appeals β€” especially for an older person with free time and expendable income. (Be sure you send regular direct mail appeals as part of your comprehensive donor comms strategy.)

Here's hoping these takeaways courtesy of my dear old stepdad Bud will inspire you as they've inspired me (tax accountant not included, of course 😌)!


Randomly yours: to inspire and recharge you

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

  • Fundraisingly Informative β€” You Don’t Need to Convince Your Donors by Steven Screen (a helpful blog post about the importance of trusting that donors already care about your cause, rather than trying to convince them of its importance)
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  • Truly Heartfelt β€” A Billion Heartbeats by Andrew Smith (a fascinating blog post about how all mammals get roughly a billion heartbeats over their lifetime, with humans being an exception due to technology β€” what will you do with your heartbeats?)​
    ​
  • Philanthropically Progressing β€” Beyond Pink and Blue: The Barbie Episode​ by T Clay Buck and Lynn Wester (a 24-minute podcast episode about the rise of women's power and influence in philanthropy, and the importance of addressing donors in a way that respects their preferences)

Until next time: May your days be many, active, generous, and inspirational!

Grateful,

PS: Struggling to create an inspiring "case for support" that engages donors? Don't miss the upcoming master webinar "How to Write a Fabulous Case" with Tom Ahern, author of Turning Doubters into Donors, on Thursday, March 21, 2024, at 1 PM Eastern.
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In this super-sized 1.5-hour session (plus unlimited Q&A session with Tom and Harvey McKinnon), you'll learn how to craft a compelling case that inspires new donors, retains current supporters, and boosts fundraising success across all your campaigns. At just $129 per computer connection, you can attend with your entire team! Register now and transform your nonprofit's fundraising forever.

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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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