'Til death do us part
A delightful woman I’m married to sent me this column by Drew Magary from Defector. While primarily a sports website, he answers all types of questions from readers—typically in a fun, playful tone. However, in this edition, he received a more serious, challenging question. A reader named...
Have a destination
“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” — Yogi Berra
Our job is to love others
“Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy.” —Thomas Merton
Life doesn't make sense
Pete Holmes hilariously explains his personal disquiet with science’s explanation of molecules.
Courage vs Stupidity
“Courage is knowing it might hurt, and doing it anyway. Stupidity is the same. And that’s why life is hard.” —Jeremy Goldberg
Our job in life
“As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has ― or ever will have ― something inside that is unique to all time. It’s our job to encourage each other to discover that uniqueness and...
Piloting time's flight
“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.” ― Michael Altshuler
Clarity creates trust
“Unclear or incomplete requests, offers, and commitments are often the source of unintended breaches of trust.” —Charles Feltman
The language of dreams
George R.R. Martin, “On Fantasy”. The best fantasy is written in the language of dreams. It is alive as dreams are alive, more real than real … for a moment at least … that long magic moment before we wake. Fantasy is silver and scarlet, indigo and azure, obsidian veined with gold and lapis lazuli....
Culture guides success
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” —Peter Drucker
Speak like a human, not a marketer
One of the reasons people don’t donate, shoppers don’t buy, ideas get ignored, and problems don’t get solved… is because when we engage our audience, we try to impress—rather than connect. We try to wow—instead of giving clarity. We talk like marketers, not people. When clarity...
Start at the epicenter
“When you start anything new, there are forces pulling you in a variety of directions. There’s stuff you could do, the stuff you want to do, and the stuff you have to do. The stuff you have to do is where you should begin. Start at the epicenter.” —Jason Fried
Brand values
“To me, marketing is about values. This is a very complicated world, it’s a very noisy world. And we’re not going to get the chance to get people to remember much about us. No company is. So we have to be really clear on what we want them to know about us.” — Steve Jobs
Hold fast to dreams
Dreams Hold fast to dreamsFor if dreams dieLife is a broken-winged birdThat cannot fly. Hold fast to dreamsFor when dreams goLife is a barren fieldFrozen with snow. By Langston Hughes
What lies within us
Last week our team launched a lustrous, new Virtuous website. It was a tremendous labor of love. At times it was heavier on the labor and lighter on the love 🥴 …but I am incredibly delighted with the outcome of our efforts.  I am beaming with pride and overflowing with gratitude...
Simplicity as a virtue
“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” —Albert Einstein
Attitude is a decision
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right.” ― Henry Ford
Time is the substance I am made of
“Time is the substance I am made of. Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire.” —Jorge Luis Borges
The show doesn’t go on because it’s ready
“The show doesn’t go on because it’s ready; it goes on because it’s 11:30. This is something Lorne [Michaels] has said often about Saturday Night Live, but I think it’s a great lesson about not being too precious about your writing. You have to try your hardest to be at the top of your game and...
Self-awareness is work
“The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice, there is little we can do to change; until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds.” —R. D. Laing
Be like yourself
“There’s only one thing that I know how to do well, And I’ve often been told that you only can do, What you know how to do well, And that’s be you, Be what you’re like, Be like yourself.” – From “Whistling in the Dark” by They Might Be Giants.
Music is complimenting
“As a guitar player… my role is to be present with love and not step on his vocals. Everything I’ve ever done… I am part and parcel of a complete voice. I’m not anybody’s shadow—and I’m not going to disrupt their light. But I am part of the whole song. I learned...
My favorite TV shows, for the record
Since you didn’t ask, I have taken the time to assemble my favorite TV shows of all time. This isn’t a list of every show I’ve ever liked or delighted in. It’s essentially my personal television hall of fame. I’ve grouped the shows into two categories: Sitcoms / Network Cable / Streaming / Other Shows...
Infinite players frustrate their competitors
Simon explains the importance of playing the infinite game, while giving real examples from companies like Microsoft and Apple. The goal is not to beat your competition, but to outlast your competition.
The shortcut to success
“The shortcut is doing the hard thing you don’t want to do. The longer you delay, the longer the path.” —Shane Parrish
Take nothing for granted
“I remember times when you and I were walking and, without prompting, you reached out and took my hand, your little fingers sliding into mine. I would like to tell you how that felt, but it is too big for words.” An excerpt from ‘Finding Chicka” by Mitch Albom Time passes in the blink of an eye. Take...
Examples > Opinions
“The world is changed by examples, not by opinions.” – Paul Coelho
Imperfect action > No action
“If we wait for the moment when everything is ready, we shall never begin.” —Ivan Turgenev I was reminded (and inspired) of these words by the work of my friend Meena McCullough. It takes courage to take those first steps. Always.
It's good to be silly at the right moment
Mix a little foolishness with your prudence; it’s good to be silly at the right moment. – Horace
The pleasure of finding things out
“We absolutely must leave room for doubt or there is no progress and there is no learning. There is no learning without having to pose a question. And a question requires doubt. People search for certainty. But there is no certainty. People are terrified — how can you live and not know? It is not odd...
The courage to unlearn
“It takes curiosity to learn. It takes courage to unlearn. Learning requires the humility to admit what you don’t know today. Unlearning requires the integrity to admit that you were wrong yesterday. Learning is how you evolve. Unlearning is how you keep up as the world evolves.” –...
You can't wait until life isn't hard
“You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy”
People first, always
“Sometimes the most ordinary things could be made extraordinary, simply by doing them with the right people.” —Elizabeth Green
The challenge of being yourself
“Man, sometimes it takes you a long time to sound like yourself.” – Miles Davis
The parable of the long spoons
A very old man knew that he was going to die very soon. Before he died he wanted to know what heaven and hell were like, so he visited the wise man in his village. “Can you please tell me what heaven and hell are like?” he asked the wise man. “Come with me and I will show you”, the wise man replied. The...
Invent your own life’s meaning
“Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as the good life, a person happy doing his own work is usually considered an eccentric, if not a subversive. Ambition is only understood if it’s to rise...
Turn people into trees
“When you go out into the woods, and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it. You see why it is the way it is. You sort...
4 Concepts to Consider for Your Value Proposition
Out of all the things there are to learn about online fundraising, defining your value proposition is the most fundamental. Your value proposition is the key to each step up the donor mountain—because each step prompts questions in the mind of your donor. Why should they open your email? Why should...
Our perception vs reality
“Life is rarely about what happened—it’s mostly about what we think happened.” – Chuck Klosterman
Feel the emotion fully
“We are healed of a suffering only by experiencing it to the full.” —Marcel Proust
Mapping Your Donor’s Journey
Imagine you’re about to go on a hike. You’re heading into the wilderness, finding a mountain, and going to the top!  That plot twist is that you’re completely unprepared: no equipment, no map, and no idea of what’s ahead. Also, you’ve never gone on a hike before.  While I appreciate your...
Our questions matter
“In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts, and be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.” – Fred Rogers
Plutarch’s Ship of Theseus
Throughout the history of mankind, the subject of identity has sent poets to the blank page, philosophers to the agora, and seekers to the oracles. These murky waters of abstract thinking are tricky to navigate, so it’s probably fitting that to demonstrate the complexity, the Greek historian Plutarch...
Should Nonprofits Give Donors the Option to Cover Transaction Fees?
Asking donors to cover the transaction fees on their online gifts has become commonplace on giving forms these days. It’s not hard to see why.  While these fees might seem small at the transactional level, over the course of a year they can eat a considerable portion of your nonprofit’s revenue.  Looking...
Mystery is endless knowability
“Mystery is not that which is unknowable, but that which is endlessly knowable.” – Richard Rohr
The perfect decision tree for every time optimist and people pleaser
The perfect decision tree for every time optimist and people pleaser
A special heart that listens
“To be kind is more important than to be right. Many times, what people need is not a brilliant mind that speaks, but a special heart that listens.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Differentiation comes from clarity of why
“Companies that offer lots of options are often struggling to differentiate. Differentiation comes from clarity of why not excess of what.” —Simon Sinek
Finite thinking vs infinite mindset
When we play to win in a game that has no finish line, there are consistent consequences. So, are you trying to win? Or are you playing to stay in the game?
The moral bucket list
The Moral Bucket List It occurred to me that there were two sets of virtues, the résumé virtues and the eulogy virtues. The résumé virtues are the skills you bring to the marketplace. The eulogy virtues are the ones that are talked about at your funeral — whether you were kind, brave, honest or faithful....
5 Reasons Donors Choose Not to Give
It’s tough to think about, but the reality is that 98 to 99% of the people who visit your website will not make a donation.  Beyond that, somewhere around 80 to 85% of the people who click on your “Donate” button are not going to complete their gift.  So we need to ask ourselves, why are...
There's more than one way to be human
“If you really want to get along with somebody, let them be themselves.” – Willie Nelson
What is marketing?
“Marketing is the generous act of helping someone solve a problem. Their problem. Marketing helps others become who they seek to become.” – Seth Godin
Be the person you’d want to work with
There are all kinds of ways to organize a team. In my experience, groups that invest in growing together, encouraging one another, and holding each other accountable create better products and more fulfilled human beings. Granted, this is easier said than done. We people are like labyrinths and often...
The opportunity of adversity
“Every challenge, every adversity, contains within it the seeds of opportunity and growth.” —Roy Bennett
Our lives are made in these small hours
“The really important ‘great’ events are never center stage of life’s dramas; they’re always ‘in the wings.’ That’s why it’s so essential for us to be mindful of the humble and the deep rather than the flashy and the superficial.” —A Christmas...
Merseyside derby: It's the hope that kills you
I’ve often said that Everton builds character, not champions. “The worst part about football in general and the derby in particular is not the disappointment, it’s the endlessly renewed hope,” he said. “It’s the hope that kills you.” Simon Critchley, a philosophy...
What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?
I very frequently get the question: “What’s going to change in the next 10 years?” That’s a very interesting question. I almost never get the question: “What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?” And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two. You can build...
The only constant is change
“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” -Heraclitus
3 Ways Your Value Proposition Is Being Sabotaged
According to my friends at NextAfter, only 50% of giving pages offer a clear value proposition.  So what if you’re one of the 50% but your conversion rate goals are still not met? Why isn’t your value proposition motivating more donors to give? More than likely, something is sabotaging your value...
Clarity is kindness
“To be clear, is to be kind” — Brené Brown
How To Communicate Delays in Online Fundraising
Good news is easy to share. All of us would love to communicate positive progress all day long. But communicating bad news can be nerve-wracking when talking with donors.  It’s natural to think that telling donors about a delay, unfortunate event, or mistake may destroy the trust you’ve...
Keeping Your Fundraising Fresh (Even When You’re Telling The Same Story Again)
Maybe you’ve been there before. At first, you were excited to get the word out to donors about what your nonprofit is doing. But now… You’re sitting at your computer about to create your next email appeal, blog post, or social media post. And the thought of telling the same old story again just drains...
Life is not a journey
Because we simply cheated ourselves a whole way down the line. We thought of life by analogy with a journey—with a pilgrimage which had a serious purpose at the end—the thing was to get to that end success or…heaven… But we missed the point the whole way along. It was a musical thing—and you were supposed...
5 Reasons Why Donor Portals Make Donors Happy
The phrase “responsive fundraising” is a powerful way to express the attitude nonprofits should have towards their donors.  For me, responsive fundraising is a big part of fundraising according to the Golden Rule.  Cultivate donors the way you’d want to be cultivated as a donor.  We all...
Apple isn't about making boxes for people to get their jobs done
What we’re about isn’t making boxes for people to get their jobs done—although we do that well…we do that better than almost anybody in some cases.  But Apple is about something more than that. Apple at the core…it’s core value—is that we believe that people with passion can change the world for...
Stop keeping score
To increase our happiness, we need better questions than “What accomplishments should be on my scorecard?” Let me suggest a few that will lead to answers that can deliver authentic well-being. 1. Who has the intrinsic characteristics that I admire and want to emulate? 2. What do people most need from...
A pale blue dot
“From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us.  On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their...
Spring is coming
“You can cut all the flowers, but you cannot keep Spring from coming.” – Pablo Neruda
Change requires action
“We cannot become what we want to be by remaining what we are.” —Max DePree
“Literalism is the lowest, least fruitful level of meaning.” – Richard Rohr
Donor Personas 101
No two donors are alike. That’s what makes them special—and what can make it difficult to connect with each one of them in an authentic and relevant way.  Donor personas are the tried-and-true tool you need to raise more donors by respecting these beautiful differences. When you sit down to write...
The love of wisdom
Philosophy means, in Ancient Greek, the love of wisdom. But the word wisdom can sound very big and forbidding; what does it really mean to be wise? And how might we consciously strive to be a little wiser? A great video from The School of Life.  Don’t watch it with the idea that this is the definitive...
The Shaker Design Philosophy
“Don’t make something unless it is both necessary and useful; but if it is both necessary and useful, don’t hesitate to make it beautiful.” – The Shaker Design Philosophy
The difference between knowing and learning
This is comedian Pete Holmes giving what I think is a brilliant (and hilarious) take on the difference between knowing and learning.   I’ll stretch it a bit further and say that I think he provides great perspective on how the journey through which we gain knowledge is where we find wisdom. But...
A small step taken now
“Success will never be a big step in the future; success is a small step taken just now.” – Jonatan Martensson
In a 1000 years time
Take all fiction and religion books and destroy them.Take all science books and facts and destroy them.In a 1000 years time …
The value of urgency
To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time. – Leonard Bernstein
Creating Effective Annual Reports After an Insanely Chaotic Year
It’s the beginning of a new year, and normally that means you’re coming back to the office to put the final touches on your donor annual report before sending it out. But 2020 wasn’t a year that anyone expected. For many nonprofits, 2020 was like a car spinning out of control on the ice. So you might...
Get Technology Out of the Way of Storytelling [Part 2]
At RaiseDonors, the big question we ask ourselves is not how we can make our technology cooler. Our big question is how do we make our technology so good that it gets out of the way of your fundraising. When technology gets out of your way, you have more time to do the things that will really...
Get Technology Out of the Way of Storytelling [Part 1]
Believe it or not, RaiseDonors isn’t just about technology. 😊 Our focus is built right into our name: raising more donors for your organization. We just happen to use technology to help you do that. Ironically, our primary way of using technology is to get technology out of your way. When...
Premiums and Online Giving
The holidays are coming, so let’s talk about gifts. Should you offer a thank you gift or “premium” in exchange for an online gift? Find out here. Whether or not fundraisers should offer donors thank you gifts or “premiums” has been argued about for decades. In 2012, an article from the Yale School...
Avoid Abandoned Online Gifts
Online fundraising depends on several things, but few things are as important as building trust. That’s why branding your donation pages is a must. Here’s how to do it. At first, you might think that the ability to customize your RaiseDonors donation pages with your unique nonprofit branding, colors,...
Actions > Feelings
“You cannot make yourself feel something you do not feel, but you can make yourself do right in spite of your feelings.” —Pearl S. Buck
Listen to understand
“The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply.” – Stephen Covey
Black lives matter
I say “Black Lives Matter” because “all” didn’t cover Black when they said “All men are created equal.” I say “Black Lives Matter” because “all” didn’t cover Black when they said “With liberty and justice for all.” I...
The question of violence
Ava DuVernay shared this important and powerful video on Twitter: “Take time to listen to this short lecture by Gary Younge. He does a strong job of contextualizing the current moment. A primer on this week’s news for those who need. There are triggering images, so take care of yourself as needed.”
Doing leads to becoming
“Be as you wish to seem.” —Socrates
Did my gift even matter?
Anything you do that potentially leaves a donor asking—“Did my gift even matter?”—must be avoided at all costs.   Always over-communicate gratitude and impact.  
Why I love Han Solo
In a world obsessed with light and darkness, Han Solo lives in the grey.  But what I love most is that when courage was required—he was a loyal friend and let that love guide his choices.  
The meaning of being
“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being.” – Carl Jung
The first enemy and the last
“I don’t think it’s our purpose to understand. Except one thing — we’re soldiers. We have to know what we’re fighting for. I’m not fighting so some man or woman I barely know can sit on a throne made of swords…[I’m fighting for] life. Death is the enemy. The first enemy and the last…The enemy always...
What it is to be young
“Youth can not know how age thinks and feels, but old men are guilty if they forget what it is to be young.” – Albus Dumbledore(Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix, “The Lost Prophecy”,Chapter 37)
The greatest danger
“The greatest danger for us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that our aim is too low and we reach it.” – Michelangelo
Adjust your sails
“We can’t direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.” – Dolly Parton 
The best portion of a good life
“The best portion of a good man’s life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love.” – William Wordsworth
Seven bits of wisdom
“1. You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have―musician Bob Marley. Amen.   2. You make the most money in bear markets; you just don’t realize it at the time—investor Shelby Davis. Some of my best changes were in recessions.   3. The heights by which great...
Jim Collins on motivating people
“Don’t first sell people on a vision.  Confront the reality (the facts).  Don’t decide first and then appear to discuss.  Have a true dialogue, then decide.  Don’t make progress toward the goal invisible.  Show progress, make it obvious.” – Jim Collins
Tips to Increase Giving Incentive for Donors
Every donor who gives to you has an incentive that motivates them. But can you add incentives to raise more donors? Let’s take a look at the research. We’ve looked at the research behind giving motives and how you can increase giving desire in your donors. In that conversation, we discussed the interior...
Removing Friction from Nonprofit Donation Pages: Part 2
Removing friction from your nonprofit donation page is the top priority as it improves the chances that you’ll raise another donor for your cause. Here’s another kind of friction that you should be on the lookout for as you optimize your pages. As donors work their way through your content, there’s...
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