Worth Considering: Do you need a white paper?

Worth Considering from Matt HuggI’ll start with what a “white paper” is. You may have read one but didn’t know you did. White papers are five to ten page “reports” that businesses put out to tell more about their product or service. But a white paper is more than that. They are authoritatively written with the tone and feel of an information, education or news piece, but they only focus on the product of the company.

In the nonprofit world you’ve seen white papers used by fundraising software companies. One of your favorite software vendors wants to address a legitimate complaint in fundraising – say, prospect management. That’s great and we can all use more information on prospect management. But, all the references to any technology solution to the prospect management problems are addressed in terms of the vendor’s software. Is it an information piece? Certainly. There’s a lot of solid information on prospect management from good, legitimate sources. Is it a sales piece? Yes, it’s that, too. By presenting the solutions in terms of the vendor’s software, the white paper becomes an excellent platform to showcase the product.

At this point you may be saying “that’s fine for commercial sales, even sales into the nonprofit market, but how can nonprofits use white papers to raise more money?” (Okay, maybe you didn’t think that, but let’s go with it…!) The answer? “Yes, as a nonprofit you can use white papers… and it’s pretty simple.”

What is your mission? Let’s say it’s disaster emergency response. It’s a legitimate cause that is of concern to hundreds of thousands of prospective donors. You do important work in providing services to people with dire need. The statistics on the need are clear. Your service in fulfilling that need is clear. The white paper? An in-depth piece on the problem – in this case disaster emergency response – and how that problem is addressed. You use examples from your organization, what some of your donors have done to help you, and how new donors can join in making a difference.

Okay, now that you have the white paper, how do you use it? Plenty of ways – white papers are very versatile. One of the big uses of white papers is as a “premium product.” You can use it as an incentive to leave an e-mail on your web site. (“Sign up here for an important report on world disasters.”) You can e-mail it to your top donors as “insider information” to bolster their support. You might even feature some of those donors in the report as a cultivation step. White papers also make great give-aways at talks and constituent meetings. It’s something of substance that your donors and friends appreciate because it goes deeper than the typical brochure or solicitation letter. And good white papers do more – they build your reputation as a leader in your field.

So think of white papers as a way of educating key constituents on the plight of those your mission serves, and to showcase how you meet those needs.

Can you write a white paper? Sure. But make sure you take the time and do the research to make it valuable information to prospective donors and the public alike. And if you don’t have that time but want a quality product, give me a call to help.

Worth Considering: Go long! (with long letters)

Worth Considering from Matt HuggEver notice what people say is often very different than what they do? What seems logical and “intuitive” can be completely wrong. In fundraising you only need to look as far as the mailbox.

Time and time again, from volunteers and staff alike, I hear the mantra “I don’t have time to read a long letter.” Yet my experience and other direct mail experts will tell you, long letters can get results – especially in “acquisition” mailings, when you want to attract someone as a new donor.

Think of it this way. When you meet someone for the first time, do you say “let me make this short and to the point: give me money”? No, you have a talk about your mission and why they should take part. You paint a picture of your organization’s vision for a better world. You invite them to join you in the cause.

But who has time to read all of that?

You do. I do. They do…if it’s important to them. Each of us makes space in our day for issues that are important to us – in our jobs, our families, our dreams for a better world. If you’re mailing to the right people – the ones that have an affinity for your cause, they will read.

Of course you make the reading easy for them. You use bullets, you bold and underline worlds, and you write in an engaging manner.

Of course, I’m biased. Writing letters – short or long – is my work. I would be happy to write letters for you and your cause. But more than that, your success is my success, so if a longer letter gets more donors and more dollars – that’s great for both of us.

So once in a while – go long.

Worth Considering: Write it right: When typos count

Worth Considering from Matt HuggDid you knwo that the hunam brain can olok at a sentnece adn desipte the typos, read the txet?

English is a tough language to spell. With its roots in German and French, in addition to words that sound the same but are spelled differently (to, too and two – to name a few), it’s no wonder that one of Teddy Roosevelt’s pet projects was the adoption of a universal simple spelling system for the language. Besides, standardized spelling wasn’t a reality until the last 150 years, and even then, it varies between dialects (consider American’s “behavior” vs. the British “behaviour”).

So if it’s so easy to read with typos, and it’s difficult to spell anyway (so much so that influential people saw the need to simplify the standards which at that time were only a few decades old) then why is there such an obsession with typos?

For many people, writing correctly is a sign of education. For others it means that you cared enough to review your work. Some people are simply offended – almost like the typo was an attack on their senses. Any way you look at it, typos count against you.

What does a typo – or heaven forbid two or three – mean to your direct mail campaign, a case statement or web site or brochure? Deadly. For example, my wife gets a perverse joy out of finding typos in web sites. She says “hey, I can do better than that,” and probably won’t respond to the appeal. Typo free copy is a baseline standard. But if you read your work several times, your mind plays another trick on you: it fills in words that aren’t there and “corrects” letters so that you don’t see the typos.

How can you not fall into the “typo trap?”

1) Read aloud. I find that reading aloud is a great way to “purge” my work of typos and other demons – like awkward word usage.

2) Let it sit. I found that if I walk away from a project, I come back to it with “fresh eyes.” This was confirmed to me a while ago when I read about an author who said he did the same. When he wrote longhand on a tablet, he could come back to his work in a few hours. When he typed on a word processor, he needed to let his writing rest at least a day.

3) Electronic spell check. This is a good baseline, but depending on the sentence, a computer program won’t flag the difference between “to,” “too,” and “two.” Turning on a grammar check can help with this, but not completely solve the problem. Always use the spell checker, but don’t depend on it.

4) Get someone else to read it. This is a great way to get rid of your typos. Another set of eyes won’t fall into the traps that you will.

Of course, I’m biased. Whether you use me to create your work, or do it in-house, remember that typos are just part of the game. Probably the best piece of advice I can give is do your best and don’t lose sleep over them – that’s my job!

Hugg’s Monthly Tip: Let’s hear it for the slacktivists!

Hugg's Monthly TipLet’s hear it for the slacktivists! “Slackitivists” – a word combination of slacker and activist –  are the folks who “like” or give you a “thumbs up” on social media sites and other places they’re given the opportunity. Don’t write them off as a bunch of couch-potato post-college 20 some-things living in their parent’s basement. Slacktivism can be a gateway activity to support from either the slacktivist his/herself, or someone influenced by all of the “likes” left behind on the sites and causes that your slacktivist followers support. Review your web sites, your Facebook pages and other social media and allow plenty of opportunities to be a darling among the thumbs-up crowd.