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What I’m reading this summer for fundraising inspiration

What I’m reading this summer for fundraising inspiration

Girls' weekend in Wakefield Quebec with some of my oldest and dearest friendsWhen I’m in need of some inspiration to revitalize my work day, I turn to books. Over the summer, I do a lot of reading, mulling over projects and ideas for the year.

I also read a lot at the cottage. That’s me—to the right—on a girls’ weekend in Wakefield Quebec with some of my oldest and dearest friends. That weekend I brought along three books (I am also an ambitious reader!). Here’s what I am reading, and why!

1 The Art of Relevance by Nina Simon

She’s been called the Oracle of the Arts world. Nina’s book (and her blog Museum 2.0) is all about her journey at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History to rebuild, and grow a small, local museum in a rough part of town into a vibrant hub of community, connection and relevance. The book talks about the concept of insiders and outsiders: insiders know your stuff really well, they like you, and, well, they don’t want you to change. But you could be relevant to those outsiders too, those folks that share an affinity to what you do, but they may not yet identify with your doors (aka entranceways) to your museum, or how you are presenting things. Your content may not be relevant to THEM. Nina does a great job of taking a complicated subject and making simple analogies that are completely understandable. She is a constant challenger of the status quo, and her book will inspire you to be bold with your programming and your fundraising. Check out the book.

FUNDRAISING TIP TAKEAWAY – Voice matters. Remember to make your fundraising communications materials relevant to the READER, not to you, the institution.

2 The Storytelling Non-Profit by Vanessa Chase Lockshin

This book’s subtitle is “A practical guide to telling stories that raise money and awareness” and the book does just that. It’s structured as a series of chapters that address all the different components of a story, as well as practical ideas for how to actually CAPTURE those stories in your shop. The book is full of worksheets, and great examples of superlative storytelling that demonstrate what Vanessa’s talking about. I think people often think that editorial calendars laying out key messages or themes for the year need to be complex. It’s just not true, and Vanessa walks the reader through the steps to creating a 12-month storytelling plan that can be scaled for the smallest, or biggest of shops. Check out the book.

FUNDRAISING TIP TAKEAWAY – There is always a way to incorporate a story into your materials. Delight your reader, donor or board member with a story about the people that your organization has reached. Make your communications memorable by connecting through stories—stories that are emotion- and feelings-based. Connect with a reader’s heart, and you’ll stay in their head forever.

How to Say it to Seniors: Closing the Communication Gap with our Elders by David Solie

David Solie spent his life helping people purchase life insurance to support their estate planning. His experience listening to seniors plan their legacies is full of beautiful and thoughtful ideas about how to connect with older generations. There is growing research in the field of geriatrics that shows that the brain continues to evolve as people get older, and that these developmental patterns help humans create a “legacy story.” So, for example, the reason that an older person repeats a story is not just because they’re getting older (and have forgotten that they just told you that story), but because they are processing and reviewing that story to make it fit into their larger legacy story: the story has meaning and importance to them.  David’s approach to open-ended questions and communications is amazing, and the book includes lots of great examples of how to ask questions to get to the place that you need to get to as a professional fundraiser. Check out the book.

FUNDRAISING TIP TAKEAWAY –  If you’re a Major Gifts or Planned Giving professional, this book is a must read. David’s approach to conversations is respectful and engaging, and will have your donors connecting with you in no time. My big takeaway from the book was to of conversations less a linear events (beginning→middle→end) and think of them more as shared experiences, meaningful moments. Taking the time to listen, to really listen, to what a person is saying is still a fundraiser’s most important skill. Read this book to find the right questions and approach to unlock that dialogue.

What books are you reading this summer? Share your favorite fundraising inspiration books in the comments below.

Happy reading!