one of the best fund-raising flyers I ever wrote

Some Elements of an Effective Fund-Raising Presentation

I was the CEO of a small nonprofit in Singapore. It was pretty much a start-up. The organization had a great mission and a great board but was not very far along in activities and programs. I wasn’t sure how to go about raising money. I tried a few things that didn’t move us forward very well.

One day, out of the blue, a 20-something American guy shows up, introduces himself, and explains that he’s a big believer in the international cause of which our Singapore nonprofit was a node, and he had some time to spare, so could we use a volunteer? Could we ever! We were only a few weeks away from putting on a big event, and the work was killing us. I put Todd to work immediately, but there was one problem – I didn’t have a desk for him. On top of that, one of our other team members, Alex, was working from an old, crummy desk.

So I got together with our outside graphic-design guy and we put together a fund-raising flyer. It said, “We have a new volunteer! But we don’t have a desk for him!” – followed by a hilarious little picture of Todd sitting in an office chair in the middle of the floor, pen in hand,  looking confused and disoriented. Then it said, “… and some of the desks we have are falling apart!” – followed by a funny little picture of Alex trying to open the drawer of his desk, but the face of the drawer was coming off instead of opening the drawer. For the record, that was legit – that one drawer face was indeed coming off, but the graphic-design guy touched up the photo to show nails sticking out – ha! The invitation was to give for those desks, sure, but also to the organization and our mission.

So we sent that flyer out to our list, and me oh my, that little thing brought in thousands and thousands of dollars, like we had never seen before. I would guess 80+%  of those who gave were first-time donors to the organization. Why did it work? I can’t give a scientific answer, but off the cuff I would say:

1.    Simplicity delivers.

2.    It was concrete. Specific. People could see exactly what the need was, and exactly what they were giving to.

3.    It was personal, relatable. It brought them right into our little office. There was poor Todd, looking forlorn, and faithful Alex, working away despite the difficulties.

4.    It was amusing. Funny without being silly or distracting from the genuine need. I can picture recipients’ faces looking at that flyer, first with a bemused smile and then with a furrowed brow. First, “Ha! look at those guys,” and then, “Hey, this is not OK. Maybe I should give something.”

BTW, Alex (Mathew Alexander) went on to serve that organization faithfully and well for many years, long after I moved on to other tasks and other places. Todd is Todd Johnson, now a distinguished professor and co-director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Seminary in Massachusetts.

love, joy, peace … Michael Michael is a freelance consultant to nonprofits, with an emphasis on research. Contact him for a free, one-hour consultation.

Vol. 1 No. 33