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.

Hugg’s Monthly Tip: Early and Often.

Hugg's Monthly TipEarly and often. When was the last time that the head of your organization communicated with your constituents? Not long ago, I hope. Yet that’s rarely the case. For all the work that’s required to run your typical nonprofit, sending out an update to 10,000 of her or his closest friends – your donors, prospects and clients – is probably not #1 on the list. That’s okay. Make it easy and write the letter (or have Matt write the letter) yourself. Regular communication with donors is a major problem for most nonprofits. Don’t let it be yours.

Hugg’s Monthly Tip: No deposits, no returns

Hugg's Monthly TipDid you make a deposit into your “interview bank”? An interview bank is a collection of interviews of clients, staff, volunteers, community members who discuss various aspects of your nonprofit. You probably don’t need them now, but having some interviews completed and “on the shelf” is a great help when the crunch is on for a solicitation letters, marketing material, web copy, blog postings, magazine article, newsletter or more.

Your job this month? Make a deposit into the Bank. Consider putting a monthly “direct deposit” in your calendar. You’ll be earning interest in no time!

Clever cadence.

Should you use clever cadence in your nonprofit fundraising writing?

“Nattering nabobs of negativity.”

Know who said those words? The same person who said “hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history” and “vicars of vacillation.” Spiro Agnew, 39th Vice President of the United States (1969–1973). In case you were wondering, most people attribute their authorship to Pat Buchannan.

They’re a pretty clever combination of words, huh? But does anyone remember why they were written or spoken? Not really. They just stand out for their cadence.

Why should you, the nonprofit fundraiser, care? Because a clever word combination doesn’t make them – your donors – remember why you wrote. Plain speaking does. Simply telling what your mission does and how it impacts those you serve will raise more money than trying to being cutesy with characters.

So don’t be a “pusillanimous pussyfooter” when it comes to your letters. Just ask ‘em for money, in a way they can understand, for the most important cause in the world: your mission.

Can a fundraiser learn relationship building from a bank?

Banks… you might hate yours… you might feel ambivalent about yours… you may even love yours… but do you leave yours? Rarely.


Banks know that once you’re in… once you have the checking and the savings and the direct deposit and the credit card and the line of credit and the home equity loan and the brokerage service and the…. it’s too complicated to leave. They own you.

They spend a lot on building that relationship because they know that besides a tenth of a percentage point or two, what they offer is just the same as what the bank across the corner offers.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you manipulate your donors so that they give even while they hate you. However, I do want you to look at all the ways that you build your relationship. What have you invested to keep your donors?

Do your donors get “insider” information? Do they feel special when they give to you for the first time? Do you celebrate their successive years of support with a small token? Can they get access to information on your mission (which is really their mission) that they can pass along to their friends?

See, like the bank, you can’t afford to be a “just another charity on the corner” to them. You need your donor to “own” you.