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Creating a kick butt appeal using gender personalization

Creating a kick butt appeal using gender personalization

In Chronicle of philanthropy, an article illustrates beautifully why your data people need to talk to your writers who both need to talk to your printer in order to execute a successful campaign.

Put simply, researchers from the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza’s college of business, found that in order to boost interest in supporting environmental causes in men, campaign designers need to make the appeal “more masculine.

What does that mean? It means ditching the frilly font and light colors and emphasis on “togetherness,” and replacing it with an image of a howling wolf and dark color patterns like “wilderness” and “rugged.” The point is that you need to build your campaign with your different donor groups in mind. What works for one segment such as women, may not be as effective for another (men who want their masculinity subtly reinforced).

Read more about the testosterone-fueled campaign comparison study tier (More cash from the he-man nature lovers club)

If you want to learn more about deploying highly personalized direct mail campaigns, we are here for you.

3 Fundraising Myths Busted

Urban legends. Folklore. Misinformation. Rumors. Myths. We’ve all heard plenty of myths debunked by the plain, simple truth over the years. Oftentimes, a myth stubbornly holds on simply because “that’s the way we’ve always done it” or because the same words get repeated and passed down. But let’s look at the facts and do a little myth-busting about fundraising.

1. The myth of “too much mail”

All donors complain about “too much mail,” right? Have you ever actually heard a donor say this?
Research shows that the culprit is the relevance of the mail, not the volume. What donors complain about is a mailbox or inbox full of junk that doesn’t make sense. Who thinks I need more credit cards? Who got the idea I want to elect Republicans/Democrats? Who thinks we have a child living with us who needs math skills-enhancing software? Why do I get all this dumb, wasteful, annoying junk mail?

In reality, when your mail is relevant to the donor, she welcomes it. When the information fits into her world and speaks to issues she cares about, you make her feel empowered and connected. You give her an opportunity to contribute and make a difference.

When your fundraising is targeted to the right donor and segmented to the right group of donors (see the related story on page 1), you’ll get fewer complaints – even if you send a lot of mail.

2. The myth of the “Rested Donor”

The myth: Once a donor gives, you should let him “rest” from hearing from you. This lets him rejuvenate from giving. If you ask again too soon, you risk doing irreparable damage.
The reverse could also be true. Leave a donor alone too long and they’ll think you don’t really care much about them or their donation. Does any healthy relationship improve with no communication? Donors who don’t hear from an organization for months after they give are far less likely to ever give again.

By giving, donors experience joy….

The joy of knowing that he is a loving person

The joy of knowing he is a contributor to society

The joy of seeing himself as a problem solver

Always remember, the donor is giving, not to you or your organization, but through you to fulfill a mission that he believes in.

3. The myth of the “Killer Complaints”

If you say anything at all to a large group of people, some of them will complain.
While it is true that some donors will complain no matter what you do or do not do, that shouldn’t make you kill your entire campaign.

Yes, it feels bad when donors complain. But about all that gets hurt by complaints is your feelings. Still, some nonprofits are so fearful of donor complaints that they kill successful campaigns all because of a few complainers. Do you really want to give any disgruntled person with the energy to write a note or an email more power than the thousands of satisfied donors who voted “yes” with their wallets for your cause?

All fundraising programs generate complaints. In fact, the more successful the program, the more complaints. That’s the nature of motivation. Most strong fundraising campaigns put real emotions in play. Urgency and need – keys to successful fundraising – can make people feel uncomfortable. And some uncomfortable people complain.

Don’t ignore the complainers. Pay close attention to them. After all, they care enough to communicate with you. If you handle it well, you can turn a complainer into a loyal friend. Most complainers really just need to be heard. A quick and thoughtful explanation will mollify them. Assure them you understand their concerns and explain the organization’s goals and motivations. If all goes well, you’ll win over a campaign ambassador by the end of the conversation.

You might need to make a few tweaks to the program. However, do not change your entire program just to satisfy a few complainers. Only program-wide results should guide how you act program-wide.

Truth: Fundraising Shouldn’t Hurt

What these three myths have in common is an erroneous belief that fundraising hurts donors. If you think your fundraising is a painful experience for your donors, you might be right. You may think that asking for money is bad. You might be sending out another tired, well-worn appeal as often as you think your donors can stomach it, and then crossing your fingers that someone responds.

Don’t do that!

Treat your fundraising as a team relationship. Together, you and your donor are going to change the world. With this attitude, you’ll treat donors with respect and be thankful for their giving. You’ll tell them they make a difference and ask on their terms. And your asking will be as welcome (and sincere) as your thanking.

And that’s the truth!!

The Proven Formula for Donor Newsletters

by Tom Ahern, of Ahern Donor Communications — www.aherncomm.com

In the 1990s, a Seattle fundraising shop called the Domain Group took the garden-variety donor newsletter, stripped it down to its components, and began testing … to see if they could come up with something better. Sort of like rebuilding a hot rod.

Domain eventually developed a formula that made a donor newsletter HIGHLY worth doing: some Domain clients began raking in more gifts through their newsletters than through their direct mail appeals.
Domain had its hot rod. Think about that a moment. Read more ›

Writer’s Tip – Talk about Donors!

Working at an organization for a while is a great way to become both incredibly passionate and deeply informed about its mission. But one thing that such longevity often brings is a loss of perspective about what attracts members or donors to your organization in the first place. You look at all of the great work that you do and ask yourself, isn’t it obvious why we’re worth supporting?
Often, this leads leaders in the non- profit sector to adopt an outreach strategy designed to fill the so-called knowledge gap. They craft appeals that tell donors and would-be patrons about all of the great things the organization has ever done. This way, the organization’s day-to-day efforts can be appreciated by everyone—not just those who are intimately involved.
Problem solved, right?
Not so fast.
As a nonprofit leader, you may think the best way to sell your organization to prospective donors is by talking about all the great things you do. But here’s the thing: most donors find that stuff extremely boring.
Guess what donors don’t find boring? Themselves and the things they care about. It might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many appeal letters focus too much on what the organization has accomplished, and not enough on why donors and prospects should care.
Donor-centric fundraising isn’t just about the mission—it’s about your audience, too.
So how do you write a donor-centric appeal letter that will knock their socks off? That’s where we come in.
Stick around and we will show you how it’s done.

Using Digital To Connect With Your Members

Savvy association executives know that technology is a key driver in serving membership—from user-friendly websites to apps that help keep members connected and engaged. What may be a surprise, however, is how pivotal technology is at making a member feel like they are part of the community.

A recent study by software provider Community Brands makes strong links between how well associations leverage digital tools to serve members better, and how connected—and satisfied—those members feel.

The study, Examining the Gap Between Member Expectations and Association Technology, surveyed more than 1,000 members of professional associations and 400 staff members in fall 2017. The takeaways show that associations have significant opportunities to drive member loyalty through technology, but many organizations are not taking advantage of them. The ones that are investing in technology to connect members—primarily through personalization of communication and content—are reaping tremendous benefits.

“In our study, we discovered technology and personalization play pivotal roles in driving member loyalty, but there is a growing disconnect between where members believe their organization is delivering the best experiences and what they value,” said Sig VanDamme, membership software evangelist at Community Brands. “The experience gap is especially pronounced with personalization. Members who believe they are receiving personalized content feel significantly more satisfied and connected with their organization.”

The survey shows that most associations—at least 60%–are using four primary digital tools: email marketing, CRM software, events-related tools, and webinar services. Other tools that align with member needs and priorities—such as job boards and learning management systems for training–are less common. Mobile apps are used by only half of the organizations surveyed as well.

A look at the members’ desires shows a disconnect. Among those born from 1965 to 1999—think Generation Xers and Millennials—at least 65% say technology plays a “big role” in their lives. More than 80% use a mobile device every day, and the same number pay for at least one digital subscription, such as Netflix.

Data Mobile Devices

It’s no surprise, then, that among the different ways that members can connect with their associations, the mobile option is the only one where more respondents said they wanted to engage than were actually engaging. This shows a gap between what associations are offering, and what members want.

“Organizations need to take these technology experience gaps seriously and progress to more seamless experiences that align with evolving digital behavior, and meet increasing member expectations for flexibility and personalization in everything they do,” VanDamme said.

What’s the easiest way to begin closing these gaps? Start with personalization. More than 70% of respondents said that personalized content appeals to them and makes them feel more connected with their organization. The type of content can vary—from discounted offers to conferences based on a member’s history or skill set, or specific articles on topics of interest based on a member’s profile.

“A majority of members (69 percent) feel more engaged with an organization after receiving personalized content, based on their past activity, because it shows the organization is interested in meeting their needs,” the study said.

Start small: birthday wishes, congratulatory notes when certain certifications are reached, or even products and services that align with the member’s profile. The key is to ensure the data you have is up to the task.

Grassroot Communications specializes in data analytics—and our team would be happy to help you! And if you’re wondering how to jump-start building a valuable database that stretches beyond your membership, contact us.

Community Brands Study

Taking the “pain” out of your campaign.

As an executive director, team leader, or person in charge of your organization’s campaign, which of the following issues is giving you heartburn?

A. Having to slap together an appeal letter for your fundraising campaign at the very last moment.

B. Dealing with shoddy, incomplete, or otherwise unhelpful donor data that you know could be useful for your organization’s fundraising.

C. Having to coordinate your fundraising campaigns and appeals with too many people – the data scientists, the writer, the agency, the print house, etc. – resulting in missed deadlines, unforeseen costs and a complete lack of quality control and oversight.

D. All of the above


If any part of putting together and executing a capital or acquisition campaign sticks in your craw, we have excellent news for you! GRC – now GrassRoot Communication – handles the entire campaign process, from data analytics, to letter writing, to production, to mailing and tracking, all under one roof. And the best part is, all of our departments work together to ensure that your organization’s campaign is as successful and profitable as possible.

First, our data scientists take your existing donor data, clean it up, and append it with additional information. This will help us to better understand your donors and also find brand new donors that are likely to support your organization.

Once we better understand the supporters and prospects your organization attracts, our data team breaks them into groups of like-minded donors and gives that information to our writers, who then analyze each segment and create customized messages and narrative arcs for each one. After developing captivating appeals for each group, we personalize the fields and customize reply devices. Following the formal proofing process, our very own copy editor reviews all final drafts and templates before production begins.

Finally, our production team works with our data team to ensure that all personalization is handled impeccably. Once production is complete, all campaign materials are properly assembled and promptly shipped to your donors. Tracking ensures that every direct mail package reaches its intended destination.

This is but a quick rundown of the average fundraising and acquisition campaign building process for our nonprofit clients. But in reality, some of the projects that we handle are much more complex and involve heavy personalization and customization. So whether your organization is large or small, we have the ability and the capacity to take care of your entire campaign, from start to finish. Eliminate countless hours of stressing about whether or not your campaign will get out on time and on budget, by teaming up with GrassRoot Communication today.

With that said, we would like to officially welcome you to GrassRoot Communication – the new and improved GRC. While we are still the same reliable, customer-centric company that you have come to expect quality work from, we have broadened the scope of our service model.

Put simply, we are not just a printing company. We are also a data analytics company and a content creation company, and we aim to use our decades of experience producing direct mail campaigns for nonprofits and associations to help you design and execute a winning campaign.

We will use this newsletter to discuss effective strategies for winning over your organization’s constituents,
as well as how best to improve your organization’s approach to communication and engagement. But the conversation does not end here! If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them on our blog and social media pages.

We hope you enjoy our educational content and trust that you will find our insights helpful to your organization’s outreach efforts!


GRASSROOT COMMUNICATIONS. We take the pain out of your campaign.

A meaningful appeal letter; speaking to the national mood.

Writing a meaningful appeal letter is much more than relaying your organizations goals to your donors (though this is very important as well).
Effective appeals – the ones that really resonate and capture hearts and minds – possess a certain cultural element, a snapshot of the current national mood. The national mood might be affected by significant events, whether it’s a natural disaster or a tragic mass shooting, heavily influenced by mainstream media. If the United States of America were a single person, the national mood would embody a cluster of emotions and thoughts that she is experiencing right at this moment.

It’s critical to take stock in the national mood because it influences how all citizens feel, who they vote for, and which organizations they give to. However, it’s not always clear how various donor segments of your organization will respond to different events. As a leader of advocacy, it’s up to you to determine what your donor is dwelling on. For example, are they affected by the results of Hurricane Harvey? Is the Texas church shooting fresh in their minds? What about the current wave of sexual assault and harassment allegations made by women against powerful men in Hollywood and elsewhere?

Tapping into the sentiments generated by the constant stream of newsworthy events is a powerful way to channel your supporters’ outrage into action. If it’s convincing your constituents to fill out a check or ballot, your goal is to engineer concrete action by coopting current events.

So, for your next appeal or fundraising letter, tell a story that incorporates the headlines that move your donors to action.

Tell your organization’s story the right way, and don’t be afraid to borrow from the headline.

Need ideas for your organization’s next fundraising or advocacy campaign? Ask us!

Mind your Mindshare

What is mindshare? Mindshare refers to the collective opinion, belief and perspective of the electorate. In your case, it refers to how people feel and
think about your organization’s cause and the social or political issues related to it.

Advocacy groups, for obvious reasons, must constantly find new ways to influence mindshare. The better they can, the more support those organizations will receive in bringing about the desired social or political change. Crucially, newspaper coverage on these issues has a tremendous effect on citizens’ mindshare. According to a recent study published in Science Magazine, stories on news sites – both small and large (like the Washington Post) – increased discussion of those issues on Twitter by 60%. Additionally, the stories shifted the nature of the views expressed in those tweets closer towards those of the original news pieces.

For advocacy organizations, the conclusion is obvious: inject more content on news sites and social media. The former can be accomplished by writing insightful and captivating guest op-eds, which are usually published daily. With regard to sites like Twitter, organizations should place one of their own influencers online in order to engage users who are actively discussing issues of interest.

Done correctly, this strategy sets up a one-two punch using digital touch points. First, constituents read the editorial on their favorite news outlets; then they share their thoughts on Twitter where they interact with fellow advocates and change agents.

Changing hearts and minds is a process – not a single act. To be successful in nudging people to your side, you must embrace a multi-channel engagement strategy that includes both social and print media. That’s how your mind your mindshare.

Talk to us about writing your next appeal or fundraising letter today!
GrassRoot Communication We take the pain out of your campaign.

Marketing Flashback: McGruff the Crime Fighting Dog

Jack Keil, the advertising executive who created and gave voice to McGruff, the cartoon hound who exhorts Americans to “take a bite out of crime,” died on August 25th at his home in Westminister West, Vermont. He was 94 years old. (The New York Times Obituaries Sunday, September 10, 2017.

Public service announcements are, by their nature, boring. Being told to be careful around strangers, or not to feed the bears in the woods, or to take care not to start a forest fire, is all perfectly sound advice. But it’s not a way to keep top of mind. Moreover, most people don’t like being told what to do; it comes across more like nagging than providing a friendly reminder.

Clever marketers, guys like Mr. Keil, understood this problem and devised a clever way around it. Mr. Keil’s basic insight was recognizing that the most memorable way to present information – any information – is through a story. Taking this idea one step further, Mr. Keil realized that creating an unforgettable character who would act as the spokesman for the cause – in this case, relaying tips and advise on how to reduce neighborhood crime – would give the message the needed “sticky-ness.” And, thus, McGruff, a tall, tough, trench coat wearing dog detective was born. “He wasn’t vicious, not tremendously smart, maybe, but he was no wimp either, “said Mr.Keil about his canine character. “He was a father figure, or possibly an uncle figure.”

Giving the message a mascot and a catchphrase was a stroke of marketing genius. Instead of brushing off warnings to lock your doors and advice to start a neighborhood watch, people would see McGruff the crime-fighting dog, and they would immediately remember it was incumbent upon them to “take a bite out of crime.” In fact, McGruff is so iconic that most people forget (or simply don’t know) that there is an actual nonprofit organization he represents called the National Crime Prevention Council. According to three studies conducted by market research firms on behalf of the NCPC, 8 out of 10 children recognize the crime-fighting dog as do 9 out of 10 adults. And remember, the mascot was created almost 30 years ago. That’s stickiness!!

The point is that associating a cause or message with a loveable mascot endows that cause or message with a provocative narrative element that’s impossible to ignore. As a result, the exhortations to pay attention to something or take action for someone are softened in just the right way for an org’s target audience to process, absorb, and respond to.

Jack Keil understood better than most that the better a story-like element can be woven into an organization’s pitch, the more powerful it’s “ask” would be. He was truly a pioneer or message marketing, and he will no doubt continue to live on through his most beloved creation: McGruff the Crime-Fighting Dog.

See article: ‘Jack Keil, 94, Who Created McGruff, Crime-Fighting Dog’ by Daniel E. Slotnik; The New York Times 9/10/17

How an Appeal is Like a Letter From a Lover

A recent piece in the New York Times Magazine briefly discusses how to write a love letter. Not only did we find the article interesting, we also noticed the striking similarities between the advice the author Malia Wollan (quoting Professor Sonia Cancian) provides for composing the love letter and the techniques used to write an appeal letter to donors and members. Some of the more notable excerpts from the article are reproduced below:

1. “A letter has a remarkable way of transpiring feelings, emotions, honesty, sincerity, and authenticity.”
2. “You have to strike a balance between poetry and descriptions of everyday life.”.
And last but not least.
3. “When you are in love with someone, you want to know what world surrounds them.”

Perhaps the comparison between love letters is a bit contrived. Nevertheless, the goal of establishing a genuine personal connection remains central to both instruments. I use the word “instrument” because I want to emphasize that personal letters are simply tools – tools used by the sender to create an experience for the reader. The experience begins by vividly describing the current state of affairs: the “everyday life” of the reader and the “world that surrounds them “as mentioned above.

But the letter’s true magic lies in its ability to lift the reader out of her everyday humdrum life and whisk her away into a completely novel setting, one on which the pain, suffering and want that characterizes ordinary human life is vanquished all thanks to the reader. In the context of a love letter, this transformative and euphoric state is caused by the writer and the recipient coming together in space and time and loving each other while becoming a spiritual entity. This union leads to the “happily ever after”. In the context of an appeal, however, it is the heroic efforts of the donor that allows the world to flourish.

Thus all successful letters provide a sort of window into an alternate reality, a vision of potential utopia. But whether that utopia becomes reality is left as an open question in the letter. It is presented by the writer as a choice to be made by the reader. In a love letter, the question asked is – “will you reciprocate my love for you?” But in the appeal the donor is asked – “will you love and support our cause and people we help?” The proverbial ball is left in the recipient’s court, and only when she takes action is goodness restored to her world. That’s the genius of a well-written letter; it creates an experience that transcends ordinary life and inspires the reader to make an enlightened choice.

As we have mentioned a few times before, writing effective appeals is as much art as it is science. It also requires constant practice, tinkering, and experimentation. Luckily, we have a team of dedicated writers who are more than happy to help you craft your organization’s appeal letter for any campaign you want to launch. Don’t get stuck at the last minute with the stressful task of writing the appeal letter that your organization’s fundraising campaign depends on to stay afloat. Let us take the pressure off of you so you can get back to doing the job you signed up for without any more distractions.

See Article: “How to write a love letter” by Malia Wollan ‘Tip’; The New York Times magazine P.25, 9/3/17

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