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Member, Association of Fundraising Professionals
Member, American Society of Association Executives
Resources – Newsletter Archive

July, 2007

Welcome to "Karen's Fundraising Tips." July's newsletter
(which you can read in 3-5 minutes . . . tops) shares tips on how to trigger stronger donor response through compelling stories - how to write those stories. And a couple fundraising ideas that may be a bit different than what you've done in the past.

     With regard to my newsletter in general - on the second Tuesday of each month I share tips, news items, and resources all tailored for the nonprofit world and folks directly responsible for raising funds. My goal is to make your job a little easier and to help you increase your donor contributions.

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     What's your biggest challenge? What would you like to see in my newsletter? How can I help you?

     Send me a short note with one or two of your biggest challenges. I'll share suggestions on making them less of a challenge in a future issue. Just send an email to and I'll take it from there.

How to Tell a Compelling Story [343 words]

     Your fundraising appeal letters, emails, newsletters, press releases, annual reports, and just about anything your write will benefit from a well-told story. I should say, your fundraising results will benefit . . . your nonprofit mission will benefit.

     The trick is to not only tell a story, but tell it very well. Tell a story carefully crafted for impact and emotion. And this is easier said than written.

     Intuition, gut instinct, and creativity are all part of crafting a compelling story. Here are key factors to consider:

  • Identify the punch line. What’s the “Oh my gosh!” part of the story? What really tugs the heart strings? More than once I’ve had a client try to chop this out because they didn’t recognize it. Chop the wrong words and you’re left with a hollow, ho-hum story.
  • Most testimonials and stories “from the field” are bare bones. They lack flesh and blood. You need to take the skeleton and add muscle, tendons, and skin. From the skeleton you need to visualize the “wow” and then create it. I’m NOT telling you to change the meaning of the story! I’m saying, take a lone spotlight on an otherwise black stage and add more lights, add scenery and action. Don’t change what happened. Add emotional impact and “set the stage.” You fill in the gaps to complete the picture and make it compelling.
  • Slash to the bare minimum. “What? Karen, you just told me to build it up and add stuff!” That’s right. Build up emotion and drama. Slash needless details and dry facts that drag down momentum. "Slash the fat and only add in lean impactful muscle."
  • The story doesn’t have to be told in chronological order. You may want to start with the punch line or somewhere in the middle. It all depends on the story and what will give the greatest impact at the start to draw in the readers.

     Those are the very basics of writing a compelling, emotion packed story. A story destined to inspire readers to donate generously.

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Just for fun - a quote for you

"They who give . . . have all the things. They who withhold . . . have nothing." (Hindu Proverb)


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Hot Tips of the Month - 2 Fundraising Ideas
[238 words, each]

1) Raising funds while surfing the net. Just in case you haven’t heard of it, check out .

     Basically once your nonprofit organization is signed up with, you raise money while donors surf the Internet. Their website explains the concept nicely (follow the “About us/FAQ” nav link at the bottom of the page).

     You raise funds without any cost to you. I don’t view this as a substitute for a solid direct mail program and other fundraising efforts. But it is another tool worth considering.

     How might you promote this fundraising search tool?

  • Write an article for page “one” of your newsletter or bulletin.
  • Add a simple comment to your direct mail reply device. Perhaps in the same place you ask for email addresses.
  • Send out a promotional email to donors informing them of another easy way to support you while they do their work, or any web surfing. Then include a short creative reminder that varies from issue to issue in your other routine email messages.
  • Encourage everyone to spread the word for you.
  • Mail out postcards announcing the great news. Hand out more postcards when people come visit your office.
  • Have signs up in your office building. Encourage staff and volunteers to use it.
  • Announce it at any special events and include it in anything printed.
  • Museums, zoos, etc. can print it prominently on your tour maps and brochures.

2) eBay celebrity auction. I got this idea from the June 28, 2007, issue of The Chronicle of Philanthropy. An organization held an eBay auction in June for a “power lunch” with Warren Buffet to discuss stock tips.

     You may or may not be able to get Warren Buffet, but who is prominent in your area? Or who among your donors is well known – locally, regionally, or nationally?

     For example, a well know musician might auction a free music lesson to the winner.

     Maybe a store owner will donate something valuable to auction on eBay.

     A politician may offer lunch with them to discuss current events. The politician may or may not stipulate only like-minded people are to bid. J

     A successful business person may offer lunch to share business building tips to entrepreneurs.

     Those are just a few ideas. Crank up your creative juices and see what ideas you come up with. It could be a lot of fun and should be easy to get publicity for too.

     Send out a stimulating press release or Op-Ed (covered in the January & February issues of my newsletter...follow the links for more info). With a prominent figure and a creative twist to your article, you’ll get noticed. A local radio station just might be willing to give you some free air time to promote your auction. And don’t forget using Craigslist, YouTube, and the list goes on. Good luck!


Feel free to forward my newsletter to a colleague. Plus, here's how they can sign-up to receive it directly:

     1. Just click on this link, In the email message to me, please include the first name and email address of your colleague. I'll take care of signing them up.

Or ...

     2. You can sign them up directly on my website by following this link:

"Karen's Fundraising Tips"

Thanks for joining me and until next time . . . craft stories with impact by adding emotion and drama, and cutting dry details and facts. And if you try either of the fundraising hot tips, please let me know how they turn out. Finally, a reminder that I extended my offer to critique a paragraph or two of your copy. Just follow the guidelines in the special offer at the beginning of the newsletter.

All the best,

Karen Zapp, Fundraising & Sales Copywriter
Perceptive Karen

P.S.  Have a project coming up soon? I’d love to explore the possibilities with you. Call or send me an email today. I look forward to helping your mission prosper!


Return to Karen Zapp’s Newsletter Archive page


Call anytime and we’ll chat about your needs: 800-794-1609
I look forward to helping you prosper.

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