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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

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My dear co-authors
Tom Ahern

March, 2011

I am writing a book. Yet again. Yes, there is more to say. There are donor-communications triumphs to report on, for instance. Readers will learn from stuff that works. 


The book's big topic is "stewardship" communications, all the things you send after the first gift.


The book will dig deep into the true meaning of donor-centricity. (If you've paid for donor-centricity lessons from a certain trademarked expert, you might be surprised by how much more there is to learn on the "How do I actually write this stuff?" side.) 


But the credit for the book does not go to me, the ostensible author; I just wrote the snippy comments and the ligaments that hold the thing together.


This new book actually has many authors and a pleasantly communal origin. It was crowdsourced.


In 2009, I offered readers of my e-newsletter for the first time what I hoped would be a pretty sweet deal: free criticism of their donor communications ... in exchange for a chance at public humiliation.

I invited subscribers to send me their stuff for a good nit-picking at no cost, with just one stipulation: they had to grant me permission to share my critiques with the world.

"Can you take the heat?" I challenged. "Then come into my kitchen."


And scores of brave fundraisers did. Hoping for the best, looking to improve, they sent me their donor newsletters, annual reports, campaign cases, direct mail appeals, and things I couldn't even classify. Far more came in than I'd expected, actually. If you're still waiting for your crit, that's why. 

The critiques probed mercilessly for weaknesses. And on the other side of the ledger, the crits heaped on praise, where praise was due (as it often was). 


The critiqued items are posted online for all to freely visit and learn from, in the form of PDF documents with pop-up comments. They are advertised as "a gallery of frank critiques, open for your error-avoiding, idea-stealing pleasure."


These critiques are, month after month, my site's most heavily trafficked attraction, used by thousands of fundraising staff annually.


Now is my time to thank you, my volunteers.


And not small thanks, either.


I have Himalayan-scale thanks to offer you.


You, my willing victims, made something new happen. You brought into existence something that had not existed before: a repository of donor communications that had been subjected to a degree of fussy-level expert analysis.


You can't find this anywhere else on the Internet. (Though SOFII is a great companion site, full of real-world case studies.)  


You alone, my willing victims / contributors, literally made the book possible. Thank you ... for being so (a.) selfless, (b.) courageous, (c.) generous, and (d.) trusting.


And stand tall, durn-it! Stop slouching, you in the back! The world is a better place because you contributed to this project. You have done a true and basic public service. You have put your goofs (and triumphs) on display ... and, by doing that unselfish deed, you have helped other fundraising professionals around the globe (on every continent except Antarctica, honestly) send out better donor communications and, hence, raise more money for some worthy cause.


Your experience mattered ... to others. 


Your experience helped ... other causes.


Be proud.


Takeaway >>>>  

The generosity of the nonprofit industry, the willingness of the best practitioners to share the good and the bad, just shocks me. Repeatedly. It's hugely decent and big hearted.


What will the title be of this new, crowdsourced book? Well, titles are fun. I've considered dozens. The one I like best right now is: Unleash the Power of Donor-Centered Communications -- Raise more money. Retain more donors. Be remarkably successful. But I think I'll have to change it. "Somebody call the Penelope Burk trademark-infringement squad!" [Curses!!! Foiled again.]


For the record, I freely release the following terms into the world:










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