At the Nonprofit Marketing Guide, Claire Meyerhoff has a great piece on the scary people who are frightening your donors away. Spoiler: it might be you.

Claire describes some "gory scenes." Here are two that especially made me bang my head against the table because I've seen them too many times:

  • The newsletter that initially had a heart-warming front-page photo of a volunteer and child planting flowers in your hospital’s community garden – but then your boss told you to swap it out for a photo of five board members lined up like smiling soldiers.
  • The end of year appeal that was succinct, upbeat had a clear call to action and engaging ask until it was over-edited and your Executive Director dealt the final blow – he added a paragraph at the top. It “explained” what you do and gave the letter “context,” he said.

The ED happens to be the bad guy in both these examples, but a more useful takeaway is to make sure you have good communications people on your team, and make sure you listen to them.

I'd add this: the goal is to get communications people who understand fundraising--still better, lose those distinctions and combined those old-school departments into a single constituent relations team that uses everything in the book to manage donor attraction and relations (social, email, snail, ads, events, conversations, etc.).

Off-topic side note: when you hire a photographer for events, beg and plead for him/her to get candids. If you can get a photographer who specializes in photojournalism, so much the better. Those shots of people "lined up like smiling soldiers" almost never end up getting used by a competent communications director.