Category Archives: Non-profit

How to write an inspiring case for a less-than inspiring vision.

Case for SupportThe other day, I read an interesting piece on the Donor Dreams Blog titled, Don’t set the  bar too high for your next fundraising appeal. This post resonated with me, as I am working on a project that involves defining and articulating a vision for a client organization. We are walking a fine line between creating a vision that has donor appeal while at the same time is reachable and do-able for the organization. Continue reading

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The best advice I ever received

I follow Erik Anderson’s  Donor Dreams Blog. This week he posted a piece with the same headline as the one you see above. He explained that a colleague of his writes regularly under this headline. He must have received lots of good advice. I like the idea of sharing good advice. So here I am with the first of what may be many posts under the headline: The best advice I ever received. Funny coming from one who polices the use of for support

The best advice I ever received (part I) is this: Present a vision the donor can be excited about.

I was working on a planning study, interviewing a financially-successful young to middle-age man. I asked him about my client’s vision and if he found it compelling. As it turned out, the vision did not resonate with him, but what he said next resonated with me. Continue reading

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How to talk so donors listen

One of the things I love about my work is seeing the sparkle in a client’s eyes when they talk about their work. I am thinking of one individual, in particular, who speaks with such passion about the connection she has with her donors. I can see that she derives real satisfaction from explaining the impact of a gift in ways that really gets through to the donor. The client I’m speaking of is a gifted fundraiser. She has intuition on her side. But that’s only part of it.Case for Support Blog_How to talk so donors listen

Talking so donors listen begins by listening, listening for what they value.

People give to advance the things they value. If a donor is looking to infuse his or her retirement years with purpose and meaning, a message about how a piece of medical equipment will reduce wait times will not resonate. The values are misaligned.

In the book The Realm of Rhetoric, Chaim Perelman (1912 – 1984), philosopher and rhetorician, identifies two kinds of values: Continue reading

How does an idea go from zero to a movement in six years?

Today is Pink Shirt Day. It used to be Pink Shirt Day in Vancouver. Now, six years in, people across Canada are taking a stand against bullying. I first heard about the anti-bullying initiative in 2008  on Vancouver-based radio station CKNW. (If you haven’t seen this year’s TV commercial, invest the 30 seconds. It’s brilliant. The link above will take you to it.)

My pink shirt.

My pink shirt.

How does an idea go from zero to this in six years? Some organizations work for multiple decades and achieve less awareness. Here are some observations about Pink Shirt Day’s communication strategy:

  1. It’s relevant and timely.Leading up to the first Pink Shirt Day, bullying incidents had been covered significantly in the news. One story in particular provided impetus for the day. A Nova Scotia youth arrived for his first day of high school, wearing a pink polo shirt. He was mocked, but two grade 12 students, stunningly, sprung into action. (Follow the link above for more on the story.) This incident became a flash point. Clear across the country, in Vancouver, CKNW stepped up to draw attention to the issue and bring about change. 
  2. It has a single focus and a clear goal. The folks behind the day applied the tested-and-true Keep It Simple formula. (Notice they are not trying to raise funds and awareness.) Continue reading
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Ask this. Get that. Why questions matter.

When I was fresh out of college, I had a conversation with my sister’s academic advisor, a Ph.D. in in immunology. He was giving me advice on how to get academics to explain their work in more detail. His advice, challenge them by saying, You don’t really believe that, do you? A great question to get people, not just academics, to talk.

The Case for Support and good questions

Are you asking long-lever questions?

Albert Einstein said, If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes. Continue reading

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What are you doing on Valentine’s Day?

February 14th is coming up. That means it’s time to think of ways to share the love that flows from your cause with your organization’s community, its donors, volunteers, leaders. Case for Support: Valentine's Day

I’m not talking about sending chocolates or flowers to your donors. On Cupid’s day, that would border on being inappropriate. I am suggesting that you have an opportunity to show impact, to show how gifts of money, time and leadership are changing lives. If that’s not a message of love, I don’t know what is.   Continue reading


I woke up wondering…

…did I write forward or foreword? And wouldn’t you know it, I had written one when I had meant the other. The blunder happened in an email to Amanda, a colleague and friend who is an amazing editor. Embarrassed  I followed up with a note to her. This kind of thing keeps me humble.

Writers bring different skills and strengths to projects. Some writers are the embodiment of The Elements of Style. They can spot a misplaced modifier as easily most people can spot a piece of spinach in someone’s teeth. They know where a stronger verb Continue reading


The Commander’s Intent: Find clarity fast

Here’s a concept that can help you find clarity, fast. Developed by the US Army, the notion of the Commander’s Intent has useful application for fundraisers, and is working its way into the cases for support that I develop. I came across the concept last year when I read Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Health.

As I mentioned, the concept has its origin in the US Army. Imagine planning for combat situations. If this happens, do that. But it that happens, do this. Yikes.  (Not unlike fundraising in an unpredictable environment.)  Colonel Tom Kolditz, head of behavioural Continue reading

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