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

November, 2006

Welcome to "Karen's Fundraising Tips." Today's newsletter (which you can read in 3-5 minutes . . . tops) includes a straight-forward, tried and true technique to solve a recurring challenge you have with every fundraising letter. And I also share a few ideas with a reader who responded to my question - "What's your biggest challenge?"

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 non-profit 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.

10 Seconds Is All You've Got!
[292 words]

10. . .9. . . 8. . .7. . .6. . .5. . .4. . .3. . .2. . .1. . .decision made! And your fundraising appeal letter just got tossed into the trash.

Ouch! Painful story isn't it? Yet donors decide within about 10 seconds of opening your letter whether they'll read it . . . or toss it.

Like to change the ending of this story with your next letter? Simple. Open with a great story that captures your donors' core emotion.

I know. I know. You've heard this recommendation ump-teen times before. That's because it works. And personally this fundraising copywriter enjoys telling stories as much as I do reading them.

Don't you enjoy reading a good story? Sure. We all do. Including your donors. Yes, the best way to communicate with a friend, stranger, or donor is to tell a good story.

And part of the reason this works so well in fundraising is because stories give you a creative way to inspire readers to give to the same cause. With each letter, ad, newsletter or email you create . . . your challenge is to give your donors a new reason to give to the same cause.

Now this is a real challenge! Unlike a for–profit company you can't feature "new and improved" products in your latest catalog. Your cause, your mission remains essentially unchanged over time. Yet you're sending 3, 12 or more communications to your donors every year.

Therefore, telling a "new" story or anecdote is an incredibly effective way to give donors a "new" reason to donate. And remember; tell the story with deep emotion. Emotion-filled stories move donors to respond . . . not fact-filled stories.

Fundraising is often a matter of playing the percentages. Stack the odds in your favor and open with an emotional human interest story or anecdote. Good luck!

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Just passing on a bit of info from a flyer I received in the mail last week. I don't know anything about it except what I read in the flyer, but it may be helpful to some of you folks. Anyway, it caught my attention because it was about raising funds with golf - I play golf, or at least I play at it.

Organizing and Managing Charity Golf Tournaments
Penn State University
Ramada Conference Center, State College, PA
February 8, 2007

The ad says, "Whether you're a novice or an experienced charity golf tournament organizer, attending this one-day workshop is a great way to pick up ideas, strategies, and advice that can help your get the most out of your golf event. . . . show you how to organize and manage a profitable charity golf tournament from golf pros that have been there!"


or contact Steve Eskey at

My thought is: No matter how you slice it, this workshop just may get your fundraising back on . . . err . . . into the "green."

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Hot Tip of the Month - Answer to "What's your biggest challenge?"
[445 words]

This "challenge" was sent in by Brenda, a reader of Karen's Fundraising Tips newsletter:

"Karen, I work for a small, non-profit, independent school as the fundraiser. We are located in a small community and I need some advice on how to motivate the community again. We offer a lot of tuition assistance and scholarships so that all kids in our community have an opportunity to attend however, we also have a budget to meet and depend on fundraising. We seem to have hit a dead end with our annual fund letters, sent out 200, no response this year."

A small pool of prospects is indeed a challenge. Here are a few ideas to expand your donor list based on the info I have:

  • Put an advertorial in the local & regional newspapers. Feature an emotional success story about 2 or 3 students. Talk about how much it meant to them to receive tuition assistance or a scholarship; how their opportunities are better now than they were before; and how grateful they are to those who donate and make it all possible.
  • Write to the families of anyone who has attended the school in the past 5-10 years.
  • Include some photos of students and or successful "graduates" with a touching caption. Add a couple testimonials from grateful parents. Include these in your advertorial, letters, any campaign.
  • Organize a fundraising event. Perhaps a walk-a-thon with current students (and any past students still in the area), parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends. You can do this by teams or with individuals (see for more ideas). Get pledges for completing the route. And set a minimum amount each team or participant must raise so you know you'll get something substantial at the end. Ask some businesses to donate cool prizes for the team that raised the most (e.g., an iPod, digital camera). Publish the winners in the area newspaper with a photo. Ask a couple local businesses to sponsor and provide lunch - free - to participants. And of course, capture names of participants and guests for future mailings. Finally, have a table on location to collect impulse donations.
  • Have someone outside your school evaluate your current letter. You want straight forward constructive criticism. Maybe it's missing the mark with your target audience.
  • Call past donors and ask them to please reconsider. Without their continued support "X" number of students every year will no longer be able to [fill in the blank]. And remember, you're calling a friend.

Those are a few ideas, Brenda. If you'd like to go into more depth, just drop me another line. And thanks for sending in a challenge!

Do you have a challenge with your fundraising letters or ads? 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.

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 . . . a well told emotional story hits the mark time and time again.

All the best,

Karen Zapp, Fundraising & Sales Copywriter
Perceptive Karen

P.S.  Have a project coming up soon? I'd love to work with you on it.


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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