From crappiness, happiness!

Smiling dog with bandana, eyes closed.Does seeing abandoned dog poop bags make your blood boil? It used to make me justifiably angry, too. I would rant to my friends about it, going on and on about how angry dog poop bags make me. By the time I was done ranting, they were angry, too. Anger shared.

Then, something wonderful happened, completely reversing my crappy attitude. I was hiking with my adult son on the beautiful Tamanawas Falls trail south of Parkdale. Within feet of the trailhead, I spotted an old, abandoned dog poop bag. I started griping about it to my son. I told him how angry it made me that dog owners pick their dog poop up in little bags, but instead of putting it in their backpack to make sure they carry it out, they leave it on the trail and forget it. I was on a pretty good ranting roll when my son, who is far wiser than his mom, interrupted me. “Mom, I’d like to walk silently for a few minutes and think about how to solve this.”

“FINE!” I grumpily consented.

After a few minutes of meditative walking, he said, “I’m ready to talk. I think I have an idea we might try.”

“Let me make sure I’ve got this right. A dog owner picks up their dog’s poop, ties it in a bag, and leaves it by the side of the trail, fully intending to pick it up on their way back. But something happens and they don’t. And then you, and probably a lot of other people, see these poop bags and feel angry at the forgetful dog owners. All these abandoned dog poop bags are increasing the amount of anger in the world, which is bad. But, Mom, I think there’s an opportunity here. You and I could decrease the amount of anger in the world simply by picking up dog poop bags and throwing them in the garbage. So many people would be spared their anger. The total amount of happiness in the world would increase.”

You might think this idea might make me even more angry, and you might be right. I realize I come across as the angry person in this story. It’s not fair to have to take care of someone else’s crap! But I gave his proposal a minute to sink in, and decided it was worth trying. So we did. On the way back down the trail, we picked up every dog poop bag. Tossing them in the garbage can at the trailhead, I felt a sense of freedom and relief. I celebrated removing seven angry dog poop bags from the world, saving myself and countless unknown others from anger. Honestly, I felt happy!

Two weeks later, back at Tamanawas Falls, there were several dog poop bags on the trail. I had brought my own bag for just this possibility. Every time I picked up a poop bag, I felt a warm inner glow of happiness. Back at the trailhead, tossing them into the garbage can, I knew I was reducing the amount of anger in the world. Bliss!

Now, when I see a bag beside the trail, instead of thinking, “Yuck! I hate dealing with other people’s crap!” and being angry, I think, “Great! Another opportunity to change the world, one bag at a time!” Sometimes I even feel a little disappointed when I go hiking and there aren’t any bags to pick up.

Dear reader, I am a generous person, which is why I am sharing this enlightened practice with you. You, too, can transform your own crappy attitude and disappointment with others into a deep sublime happiness for yourself, making your world a more joy filled place for you — and those forgetful others. Stow a plastic bag or two in your backpack. The extra layer of protection makes it safer to put someone else’s crap in your pack, quite literally.

C’mon! Let’s start a dog poop movement! There are abundant forgotten dog poop bags out there on the trails. Plenty for all of us. Little bags of stinky happiness. Join me, and set yourself free.

Tiny Tip: Graphics the Easy Way

A nonprofit needs a way to make good-looking graphics for Facebook,  appeal letters, email newsletters, posters, postcards . . .

Even if your scrappy nonprofit can afford Photoshop, who can afford the time it takes to learn to use it well?

Enter Canva for Nonprofits. Canva will give any nonprofit a free Team account including 10 logins. You store your colors, logos, and fonts on the Canva site, and your staff members can make consistently beautiful and on-brand graphics, whenever they need them.

I made this one in about 3 minutes, to thank Tom Ahern for his help with an appeal letter I wrote:

He used it in his email newsletter.

Canva for Nonprofits. Empower your team.

PS: Are you randomly throwing stuff on Facebook and hoping it inspires someone to give or volunteer? There’s a better way. Craft a Communications Plan that starts with an audience profile and ends with how you’ll effectively use all the channels. Need help? We’re here for you.

Tiny Tip: “Sincerely” doesn’t get the best response

What’s the best way to end your emails? Sincerely? Regards? Yours truly? Nope. This tip is based on research analyzing 350,000 emails.

Gratitude won the top three spots. “Thanks in advance” was the clear winner, followed by “Thanks” and “Thank you.”

Gratitude is an effective, inexpensive, relationship-building action you can use every day.

Speaking of gratitude, are you doing a good enough job thanking donors? Would you rather do a great job? Let me help you move from “good enough” to “Great!” Call or email for a complimentary one hour consultation: 541-490-8689.

A Sly Solution for Shy Board Members

How easy is it to get your board members to make “Thank You” phone calls? Not?

Talk to them about using Slydial to make those calls. It’s a phone app (iPhone and Android) that takes your call directly to voicemail (if you’re calling a mobile phone). Your shy or busy board members can make those important Thank You calls to donors without having a conversation they don’t have the time or temperament for.

Ideally, your board members would LOVE long conversations with donors, but if they don’t…


I use it. (But never for you!)

Need help with getting your board involved in donor love? That’s what we’re here for. Contact us now so we can help you reach your fundraising goals through board coaching.

Storytelling Interviews

If your nonprofit has an email newsletter, a blog, or sends fundraising letters, you need to have good stories. How do you make that happen? It starts with an interview. Here are some tips on making that special kind of interview work.

The purpose.
Start by thinking about how this interview will be used? A fundraising letter? A newsletter? Then think about your audience. Your audience is always one single person, a donor. Think about a donor you know, a real person, and plan to write to them.

The preparation.
Familiarize yourself with the program or services the client used. Prepare some questions. Use a digital recorder that you have practiced using so you can save the recording correctly. During the interview you will be taking notes only on key ideas.

The interview.
Be courteous and sensitive. At the beginning of the interview, thank them. Be an active listener. Ask questions that will bring them back to the scene of the story of their life before your charity helped them.

With many people, you just need to get them started, then listen. Don’t say anything. Just wait for them to talk. You are there to listen. When there’s a long pause, ask a question.

Throughout the interview, make your subject feel successful by saying things like, “…that’s great, you have a good memory, this is really good, thank you for being willing to be so vulnerable…” At the end of the interview, acknowledge their strength and vulnerability, and thank them again. You can’t thank too much.

Suggested questions.
Ask emotional questions to get emotional answers. What did that feel like? Tell me how it felt? Tell me how it felt when…
Tell me the story of what happened before you got connected with this charity? What was your life like?
Tell me the story of how you were helped by this charity? Was there someone in particular who you’d like to talk about?
Can you tell me more about that?
Here is the most important question, because this quote definitely belongs in whatever you’re writing: What would you say to supporters of our charity?

The story
Write your first draft as soon as possible after the interview. See Open-Hearted Writing. A good fundraising, donor-centered style of writing isn’t for everyone, and it isn’t necessarily natural. Need help with your fundraising stories? That’s what we are here for. Contact us now to see how we can help you reach your fundraising goals through better stories.

Open-Hearted Writing

Write Drunk, Edit Sober:
How to write a fundraising appeal

I’ve learned a lot from fundraising writer and guru Tom Ahern.

Last year at the Nonprofit Storytelling Conference, Tom helped me with an end of year appeal letter. My letter concept was edgy: “He died doing what he loved.” And, it doubled the number of new donors acquired compared to the previous year.

I saw Tom again this year at the NPSC, and again he told us all to “Write drunk. Edit sober.” This advice always gets a laugh, but not many people follow it.


One evening last month, I tried it. I connected with Tom on Facebook to find out what wine pairs well with a crowdfunding story. He suggested an Old Vine Zin.

Two glasses of wine later, I put on my headset, turned on my dictation software, and told myself the story of a kid who comes home from school every day to a home that is way too quiet. I talked about how she feels. I shared how my client’s program ends her loneliness, helps with homework, feeds her dinner, etc.

Then I ranted for 15 minutes about all the reasons people should support the program. Ranting was fun!

The next morning, sober, I looked at what I had written. Seven pages of content, some of it surprisingly good. The story I needed for the crowdfunding page was right there on the first page. While it certainly needed some editing, this was the fastest I’ve ever produced an appeal.

Why did this work so well for me? Is it because I’m uptight and need to loosen up? Maybe.

Here’s the deal.

The story you tell your donors has to connect their hearts with the heart of the person you are helping. When your brain gets in the middle of that interaction, you’ll kill the emotion. You’ll kill the connection.

You have to find a way to get your brain out of the way and let your heart write the story.

People don’t give because they think you spend your money wisely, or because you measure your outcomes, although those are both important. People give because they feel. They care.

The emotional connection your donor makes is the heart of any good fundraising story.

That emotional connection is the way to get and keep loyal donors.

So, here’s your call to action: Open your heart before you write. Or hire someone who can.

Need some help with your holiday fundraising? That’s what we are here for. Contact us now to see how we can help you reach your Holiday 2016 goals.

Flaming Heart Photo Credit:RedHeartsRule

Feeling Thank Yous

Thank You!I’m getting ready to lead a workshop on writing thank you notes today, so I’m trying to figure out what my real process is.

Sometimes, it is so easy to write a thank you, while other times, it’s a struggle.

What’s the difference? I think it’s hardest when I try to do it right. It’s easiest when I first get in touch with my feelings of gratitude. Here’s an example:

Yesterday, at the Nonprofit Public Relations Roundtable, a Gorge Action Programs staff member came in with a homemade coffee cake for us. I try to stay away from sugar or white flour, so… I wasn’t grateful for the thing itself. But I felt so much gratitude for her thoughtfulness, that I immediately made a commitment to myself to write her a thank you note.

Now I’m sitting here with a note card open, pen in hand, and I need to get back in touch with that feeling. I close my eyes, and remember the moment, and what I felt when I realized she had made the coffeecake especially for us. I write down the feeling words: cared for, nurtured, welcomed, loved, liked, surprised, scared of sugar, worried I’d offend her if I didn’t eat some, obligated.

Which words will she want to hear? What might she be hoping that her effort elicited? Those are the words I’ll use in my thank you note. I always use the pronoun “you” or the person’s name at least 3 times.

Dear Georgia,

Thank you so much for making your wonderful coffeecake for our meeting. It was such a surprise, and you made me feel so welcome. You are so thoughtful! Georgia, the effort you put into making us feel at home means a lot to me. Thanks again for being so warm and welcoming.


I’ve identified my process.
1. Be aware of opportunities to express gratitude.
2. Get in touch with my feelings of gratitude.
3. Reach out with empathy for the person I’m grateful to.
4. Make it personal and specific.

If you, too, struggle with the process of thanking your donors, I’d love to help you develop a strategy that works. Call (541-490-8689) to schedule a one hour complimentary consultation.

Force of Salesforce

I’ve been working with Salesforce at a non-profit for several years. Now I’m helping other non-profits get their fundraising act together, and one thing that most non-profits need is a good donor management plan, including a good way to manage their data.

Think about the last time you gave to a cause. How long was it before you received a thank you? How long should it have been?

My advice: a sincere, unique thank you letter should go out within 48 hours of receiving a gift. Salesforce makes it easy to do just that. As soon as you enter a donation, you can print a letter. Making the letter sincere and unique? Salesforce can’t do that, but you probably can.

Am I being unreasonable to expect a non-profit to acknowledge a gift within the shortest possible time? Yes. It is quite unreasonable. But if a non-profit does this, their donors are going to think that they do everything well. It’s the easiest, most cost-effective way to boost your reputation.

Fresh Starting

I recently watched a YouTube video featuring Louis CK talking about the impact George Carlin had on his life. At a time when he had been doing the same hour of comedy for 15 years without succeeding as a stand up comedian, he heard an interview with George Carlin. Carlin said that he was so prolific because he decided that every year he would “chuck out everything and start again with nothing.”

Louis CK decided to try that, even though it was really scary, because what he’d been doing for 15 years wasn’t working. The rest is stand up comedy history. Louis CK is now counted among the top comedians working in the field.

What about you? What have you been doing for over a decade that isn’t working? Ready to chuck it?

Watch this from 4:30 to see what I’m talking about.

Speech Practicing

I’ve been working on an elevator pitch workshop, and one of the things I want to encourage people to do is practice their pitch.

The best speeches I’ve done have been practiced 20-40 times. I usually practice just walking around my house, but I think I need to be more imaginative. So I started a list of ways and places to practice a speech.

Practice your pitch 25 times or more–

walking around your room,
in writing,
in a high voice,
super excited,
holding your turned off phone,
on a hike,
to your mom,
to your grandma,
to your kids,
in your sleep,
to your friends, saying, “what can I do to improve this?”
call your work number and leave it as a message,
call your cell and leave it as a message,
with a French accent,
or… any other accent.
Use your imagination… just practice!

Expanding Your Impact