What’s the Spark* in your organization?

Why I read a fundraising appeal, ad, or brochure for a non-profit, I’m looking for something that I have come to think of as a Spark*.

I may look with a more critical eye than most readers (I’m in the business, after all), but even the casual reader is looking for something important: a reason to give. Very often, it’s not there.

The Spark* is probably what gets you out of bed in the morning. Most important, the Spark* answers the donor’s most important question: Why should I care?

I hope you’re constantly on the hunt for the Spark* in your organization. Here are some tips that may help you spot it: Continue reading

Goodbye, Spark*

Simchas Hachaim PublishingAs of January 2014, I have accepted the position of Executive Director of the Rabbi Avigdor Miller Legacy Library and its publishing operation, Simchas Hachaim Publishing.

I will not be posting to the Spark* at this time, but earlier posts will remain online.


What you produce (according to Pete Drucker)

I stumbled recently onto Peter Drucker’s classic business text, Non-Profit Management. Here are a few lines that struck me:

The “non-profit” institution neither supplies goods or services nor controls. Its “product” is neither a pair of shoes nor an effective regulation. Its product is a changed human being. The non-profit institutions are human-change agents. Their “product” is a cured patient, a child that learns, a young man or woman grown into a self-respecting adult; a changed human life altogether.

Hope that sounds familiar. The Spark* you’ve been looking for is right there: the changed human life. Learn to talk as much as you can about the change—the impact you have on real people’s lives.

Bill Strunk, Fundraising Genius

After 10 years obsessing over non-profit communications, I’ve found you can sometimes learn about powerful fundraising messages from the most unlikely places. Take my friend, Bill Strunk.

Since college, his (and co-author E.B. White’s) timeless little book, Elements of Style has been a faithful companion. It’s must-reading for any aspiring writer, and is required reading in many college writing classes.

Yes, after three-quarters of a century, this little book shows its age. But many of its lessons, especially regarding writing style, are as poignant as ever. No wonder some of his advice about good writing rings true for fundraisers, too. Here are a few of my favorite examples: Continue reading