Keep Your Donors:The Guide to Better Communications & Stronger Relationships (AFP Fund Development Series)
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More About This Title Keep Your Donors:The Guide to Better Communications & Stronger Relationships (AFP Fund Development Series)


Written by fundraising experts Tom Ahern and Simone Joyaux, Keep Your Donors is a new, winning guide to making disappointing donor retention rates a thing of the past. This practical and provocative book will show you how to master the strategies and tactics that make fundraising communications profitable. Filled with case studies and based in part on the CFRE and AFP job analyses, Keep Your Donors is your definitive guide to getting new donors—and keeping them—for many years to come.


Tom Ahern is recognized as one of North America's leading authorities on how to make nonprofit communications consistently effective. He speaks frequently in the United States and Canada on reader psychology, direct mail principles, good (and not very good) graphic design as applied to fundraising and nonprofit branding. He is president of Ahern Communications, Ink, a consultancy specializing in capital campaign materials and other nonprofit communications. Tom's popular e-news provides tips on donor communications. He wrote the first book on donor newsletters, published in 2005, as well as How to Write Fundraising Materials That Raise More Money.

Simone P. Joyaux, ACFRE, is recognized internationally as a "thought leader" in the philanthropic sector. An expert in fund development, board and organizational development, and strategic planning, Simone is the author of Strategic Fund Development: Building Profitable Relationships That Last. This book has become an industry standard. Simone presents all over the world and is a faculty member in the Master's Program in Philanthropy and Development at Saint Mary's University, Minnesota. She serves regularly on boards, is the founder of the Women's Fund of Rhode Island, and is the former Chair of CFRE International.




CHAPTER1 Beginning at the Beginning: The Context for Everything Else.

Why the Larger Context Matters.

Philosophical Framework.

This I Believe.

Building Community.

Building Community Redux.

Effective Organization.

Key Components of Effective Organizations.

Effective Fund Development.

In Conclusion.


CHAPTER2 The Red Pants Factor: A Story about the Power of Questioning.

Finding Your Own ‘‘Red Pants Factor’’.

A Postscript from Black Dress.

INTERMEZZO #2 What Do All the Words Mean?

CHAPTER3 Key Components of Effective Organizations: Part of the Larger Context for This Work.

Adopt an Organizational Development Approach.

Limitations of Technical Fundraising.

Turning You into an Organizational Development Specialist.

What the Organizational Development Specialist Needs to Know.

Build a Culture of Philanthropy.

Concept of Corporate Culture.

Culture of Philanthropy.

Meaningful Questions.

Personal and Organizational Commitment to Conversation and Questioning, Learning and Change.

Learning Organization Theory.

Systems Thinking, the Cornerstone of Learning Organizations.

Conversation at Work.

This Is Hard Work.

Value of Research—Your Own and That of Others.

Collecting Data from Your Organization.

Translating Data into Useful Information.

Qualified Opinions Only, Please!

A Curious Conundrum.

Corollary of the Curious Conundrum.

In Conclusion.

CHAPTER4 What Relationships Are and Why We Have Them: The Art of Human Interaction.

Relationships Are Everything.

A Radical Notion.

Relationships Require Choice.

Types of Relationships in the Nonprofit/NGO Sector.

Your Philanthropic Relationships: How Your Organization Relates to Its Donors of Time and Money.

Relationships with Other Organizations: How Your Organization Relates to Other Community Organizations.

Relationships within Your Organization: How the Various Parts of Your Organization Relate.

Advocacy and Public Policy Relationships: How Your Organization Promotes Public Policy that Fosters Healthy Communities.

Relationships Are Definitely Not Transactions.

Do Donors Really Want Relationships?

Watch a Good Relationship Builder.

Key Concepts in Relationship Building.


Closeness and Boundaries.

Diversity and Cultural Competence.


Dynamism and Change.

In Conclusion.

Appendix 4A Values and Mission of the Equity Action Fund at The Rhode Island Foundation.

CHAPTER5 Five Rather Deadly Sins: Warnings about Relationships and Solicitation.

Sin #1: Separating Fund Development from Philanthropy.

Sin #2: Treating Giving as a Financial Transaction Rather than an Emotional Act.

Are You Treating Your Donors like Automatic Teller Machines?

Sin #3: Trespassing on Personal and Professional relationships. Please Promise that You Won’t!

How Do Your Board Members Feel?

But Lots of Organizations Do This and We Need the Money!

Sin #4: Universalizing Your Own Passion. Instead, Find Theirs—or Leave Them Alone and Move On!

Sin #5: Asking Prematurely.

More Visibility Does Not Produce More Gifts.

Ensuring Visibility with Your Prospects and Donors.

Don’t Solicit Unless You Know that The Person Knows Your Organization.

Not Sins but Certainly Worries.

Are You Worried about Donor Fatigue?

Are You Worried about All That Competition for the Same Donors?

In Conclusion.

INTERMEZZO #3 Direct Mail and Relationship Building.

CHAPTER6 Eight Steps to Develop and Nurture Relationships: It’s What I’m Buying that Counts.

Developing Your Relationship-Building Program.

Steps in Relationship Building.

Step #1: Identify the Predisposed.

Step #2: Get to Know the Predisposed.

Step #3: Understand Their Interests and Disinterests, Their Emotions, and Their Motivations and Aspirations.

Step #4: Identify What You Have in Common and Define the Mutually Beneficial Exchange.

Step #5: Nurture the Relationship to Develop Commitment.

Step #6: Evaluate Interest and Readiness for the Request.

Step #7: Ask and Thank.

Step # 8: Monitor Progress and Measure Results.

In Conclusion.

Appendix 6A Evaluating Prospect Interest, Readiness, and Capacity and Designing the Ask.

CHAPTER7 Identify the Predisposed: Finding New Prospects for Your Organization.

Who Are the Predisposed?

Introducing the Concept.

But What If They Are Reluctant?

Fund Development Professionals Help Organizations.

Identify the Predisposed.

Collect and Analyze Public Lists.

Listen to Your Friends and Colleagues.

Host Cultivation Gatherings.

Creating Opportunities for People to Self-Identify as Predisposed.

How the Women’s Fund Uses These Four Steps.

Building Relationships (and Identifying the Predisposed) at the Apple Store.

In Conclusion.

Appendix 7A Learning about People Through Conversation.

CHAPTER8 Understanding the Fundamentals of Marketing and Communications: The Right Message to the Right Person at the Right Time.

Communications: For Many, It’s All They Know of You.

Fund Development Is a Type of Marketing, and Uses the Same Methods.

It’s Not What You’re Selling, It’s What They’re Buying.

Targeting: How You Find Needles in a Haystack.

Segmentation: How You Increase Penetration Of A Target Market.

Frequency and Reach.

What Is Branding?

In Conclusion.

CHAPTER9 Emotions: The Decision Makers.


Orbitofrontal Damage and Its Implications for Fundraisers.

Emotional Triggers: An Introduction.

Up to 135 Triggers to Choose From.

Emotional Twinsets: Raise the Problem, Be the Solution.

In Conclusion.

Appendix 9A W. Gerrod Parrott’s List of Emotions.

CHAPTER10 Relationship Building: Details about Steps #3 and #5: Getting to Know You.

Step #3 in the Relationship-Building Process.

Getting Started.

Keep Going!

What Kind of Information Do You Want to Know?

A Few Strategies for Getting to Know Your Donors and Prospects.

A Reminder about Step #4.

Step #5: Nurture the Relationship to Development Commitment.

Role of Customer Service.

Some Preliminary Thoughts about Cultivation.

Creating Opportunities for Connection.

Ways of Making Emotions Tangible and Expressing Feelings.

Cultivation as a Community-Building Process.

Ideas for Nurturing Relationships.

Using Incentives to Nurture Relationships.

Using an Individual to Cultivate a Particular Relationship.

Debrief after Cultivation.

In Conclusion.

Appendix 10A Building Relationships with Your Constitutents.

Appendix 10B Member Survey of the Audubon Society of Rhode Island.

Appendix 10C E-Mail Survey from the Audubon Society of Rhode Island.

Appendix 10D Women’s Fund of Rhode Island Marking Milestones Brochure.

CHAPTER11 Creating Your Relationship-Building Plan: Write It Down.

Good Process Produces the Best Results.

Plan Practicalities.

A Different Approach.

In Conclusion.

CHAPTER12 Planning Donor Communications: Staying in Touch.


Writing a Plan.

Building an Annual Donor/Media Communications Calendar on the Schwartz Plan.

In Conclusion.

CHAPTER13 Characteristics of Effective Communications: How the Sausage Gets Made.

Action is the Objective. Reading Is Optional.

An Honest-to-Goodness Secret to Success: Write a Creative Brief First.

There’s an Onslaught, and You’re Part of the Problem.

You’re Selling Feelings, Especially Hope.

You’re Selling a Feeling of Importance, Too.

Interest Me (or Else).

How to Interest Donors and Prospects: The Big Four.

How to Interest Anyone: Four Chances to Win.

Self-Interest: Why Greed Is Good (For Your Organization).

Make Offers.

Passing the ‘‘You’’ Test.

Don’t Talk So Much about What You Do. Talk about Why It Matters.

Have Themes.

You’ve Heard of ‘‘Values Voters’’? Meet ‘‘Values Givers’’.

In Conclusion.

INTERMEZZO #4 What’s the Role of a Fundraiser?

CHAPTER14 Are You Really Donor-Centered? Are Your Donors Truly Loyal? Why Building a Better Mousetrap Doesn’t Work Unless Your Donors Are Mice.

Some Facts about Donor Retention.

Donor-Centrism: The New Old Thing.

Acquisition Is Easy. Retention Is Tough.

‘‘Donor-Centric’’ Is Another Way of Saying "Building Trust".

Why Donor-Centered? Shouldn’t Mission Be at the Center?

Simple Demands of Donor-Centricity.

Donor Loyalty and Donor-Centrism: Inextricably Linked.

What Is Loyalty?

Passive Loyalty.

Active Loyalty.

Lifetime Value.

Are Donors Loyal to Your Organization or to the Cause You Represent?

Current Donors Come First.

Helping Your Donors Dream.

It’s Relationship Building, It’s Not Education.

Engaging Donors with a Targeted Gift.

Acquiring a New Donor.

You’re Invading Their Privacy.

Many Nonprofits Cannot Afford Bulk Direct Mail Acquisition Anyway.

Create an Exclusive Program to Bond with First-Time Donors.

Your Organization Can Speak Out—But Does It?

In Conclusion.

CHAPTER15 Telling a Story: Then What Happened?

Why Tell Stories?

What Is a Story?

Fundraising Stories Report Results, without Lingering on Your Inner Workings.

Anecdotes versus Statistics: Which Are Better?

Handling the Trophy Statistic.

Use Statistics like a Spear.

Have Themes, Then Tell Stories that Illustrate Those Themes.

What Makes a Story Work? Sensory Detail.

In Conclusion.

CHAPTER16 Communications and Social Styles: Did You See What I Mean?

Everything but the Words.

What Does ‘‘Social Style’’ Mean?

Assertiveness and Responsiveness Come First.

Assertiveness: Measuring How Others See You as You Try to Influence Their Thoughts and Actions.

Responsiveness: Measuring How Others See You as You Express Your Feelings.

What’s Your Social Style?

Are You Comfortable? Are Others?

Are You Versatile?

A Few Caveats.

In Conclusion.

CHAPTER17 Conversation Nurtures Relationships: Asking Questions to Learn More.

A Quick Aside: Questions Related to Solicitation.

Purpose of This Conversation.

Honoring Conversation.

Active Listening.

Listening . . . Sort Of.


Genuine Inquisitiveness.

Starting a Conversation: Why Talking about the Weather Is Good.

What Is Important to Those in Your Relationships?

Here’s a Framework That Might Help You Discern What’s Important.

Your Donors and Your Mission.

Ask Your Donors Why.

Ask Questions about Your Organization Specifically.

Ask Questions about Your Cause.

Ask About Their Giving Habits.

Find Out Their Values and Beliefs.

Conversation with Donors at the Rhode Island Foundation.

In Conclusion.

CHAPTER18 The Case for Support: Why Should Anyone Give You Money?


Preliminary Steps.

A Good Case Is, at Heart, an Inspiring Tale.

What Kinds of Information to Collect? A Checklist.

Building a Case in a Single Meeting.

Why Does Your Organization Do What It Does?

What Have You Accomplished?

Why Is Your Organization the Best Organization to Do This Work?

What Do You Do?

How Do You Hold Yourself Accountable?

Who Are Your Target Audiences?

Which Emotional Triggers Would Move Your Target Audience(s) to Act?

Going from A to B: Answering Three Basic Questions.

Why Us?

Why Now?

Why You?

Types of Case Statements.

Internal Case.

Feasibility, Planning, or Draft Case.

Public Case.

In Conclusion.

Appendix 18A Thoughts about Creating a Case for Support.

Appendix 18B Housatonic Youth Service Bureau: (Established by Six Concerned Communities in 1991).

Appendix 18C Volunteers in Providence Schools: Case Statement for Operations.

Appendix 18D Audubon Society of RI: Internal Case for Donor Support.

Appendix 18E Talking Points: HousingWorks RI 2006.

CHAPTER19 The Donor Newsletter: How You Cultivate (i.e., Retain) Donors.


What the Research Says about Donor Newsletters.

What Do Donors Want from Your Newsletter?

Seven Common Flaws that Undermine Donor Newsletters: A Checklist.

Flaw #1: Doesn’t Deliver News that Donors Care About.

Flaw #2: Doesn’t Put the Donor Center Stage.

Flaw #3: Isn’t Very Friendly.

Flaw #4: Skimps on Emotional Triggers.

Flaw #5: Doesn’t Tell Stories.

Flaw #6: Expects People to Read in Depth.

Flaw #7: Doesn’t Have Real Headlines.

The Flaw You Fix First: Headlines.

How to Find the Story Behind the Headline.

Electrons or Paper? High-Performance E-Mailed Newsletters.

Your E-Newsletter’s Subject Line Makes All the Difference.

Electrons and Paper: Other Advantages of E-Newsletters.

E-Newsletters Must Be Opt-in (A Good Idea for Everything, Really).

Fast, Easy, Still on Paper: The ‘‘Newsyletter’’.

Simplicity Itself: A Proven Formula for a Donor Newsyletter.

In Conclusion.

Appendix 19A Boys & Girls Club of Pawtucket Newsletter.

Appendix 19B Example 1: Women’s Fund of Rhode Island Newsyletter.

Appendix 19C Example 2: Women’s Fund of Rhode Island Newsyletter.

CHAPTER20The Web Site Home Page: Click. Search. Do. Read?

Not So Much.

Why Web Sites Are Completely Different.

Is Your Home Page Ready for Newcomers?

Getting Off on the Right Foot: The Importance of a Tagline.

What Must Be on the Home Page, Krug Says.

In Conclusion.

CHAPTER21 Tips for Writing: Think First. Write Later.


Your Fifth-Grade Teacher Was Right: Outline.

An Easy Way to Outline: Ask Yourself Questions First.

Know the Point of Your Story and Start There.

Write about Benefits, Not Features.

Write Less.

Write for Speedy Reading.

Beginning with a History Lesson, and Other Common Flaws.

In Conclusion.

CHAPTER22 Readability: Visual Aspects of Good Communications.

Welcome, Browsers!

How We Look.

From Gutenberg to Wheildon.

Anatomy of a Failed Annual Report.

In Conclusion.

CHAPTER23 Monitoring Progress and Measuring Results: How Effective Are Your Communications?

‘‘Is It Working?’’ How to Measure Your Results.

Measuring the Unmeasurable.

Get Your Thoughts in Order Before You Begin to Write: A Checklist.

Evaluating Your Donor Newsletter: Eight Tests.

Measuring the Effectiveness of Public Relations.

Standards for E-Mail Solicitations.

In Conclusion.

CHAPTER24 Monitoring Progress and Measuring Results: How Good Is Your Relationship-Building Program?

Why Evaluation Matters.

Deciding What to Measure.

Measuring Performance and Evaluating Results.

A Practical Example.

A Suggestion for Measuring Some of Your Qualitative Results.

Analyzing and Interpreting Evaluation Results.

Communicating Evaluation Results.

Possible Performance Measures for Relationship Building.

From the Prospect/Donor Perspective.

What You Do to Nurture Relationships.

Charitable Giving Measures that Reflect Donor Loyalty.

Monitoring Progress.

In Conclusion.

INTERMEZZO #5 You and Your Organization: Sprinting into the Future.

CHAPTER25 Coda: Philanthropy’s Moral Dilemma.

Politics of Power in Philanthropy.

Moral Dilemma Facing Philanthropy.

Power, the Silent Haunting.

Privilege, the Driving Nature of Power.

Understanding the Two Types of Philanthropy.

Tradition Dominates.

Have You Noticed: The Less Social Justice We Have, the More Philanthropy We Need?

We Are Complicit.

Philanthropy as a Democraticizing Act.

Attacking the Moral Dilemma.

In Conclusion.

Appendix 25A Questions about Privilege and Power.

A. Joyaux’s Concept of Enabling Functions, Skills, and Attitudes.

B. Basic Principles of Fund Development.