Only Pick Two

Pick Two.png


Have you ever seen one of those triangular diagrams asking you to “only pick two” of three seemingly essential options?

Sometimes they’re used to represent a college student’s painstaking decision of how to spend their very limited free time on activities like studying, sleep, or socializing. 

Bill Jacobs posted a diagram on the Analytical Ones website that applies to business and fundraising (or almost anything). 

“The Triangle of Truth” via  Analytical Ones

“The Triangle of Truth” via Analytical Ones

He ominously calls it The Triangle of Truth. 

Though The Triangle of Truth may sound like a weapon you’d expect the Spanish Inquisition to use, it can actually be a pretty useful tool.

You’re asked to select only two -- Time, Quality, or Cost.

Whether it’s an upcoming direct mail campaign or the next time you replace your roof, this diagram can be really helpful deciding what to focus on and what might be okay to sacrifice a little.

Playing out the roofing example, you could hire the best contractor in town who’d put your roof up within the week -- if you’re willing to let him name his price. 

If you’re less concerned about quality, you could go with a roofer who uses cheaper materials and let him install it whenever he has the time. You could save a lot of money this way. 

A problem with these kinds of graphs is that they imply you need to totally abandon whatever option you don’t pick. I don’t think this is true.

Maybe saying “focus on two,” rather than “only pick two,” would be more accurate. The third option is still in the equation. 

So while diagrams like these may not be perfect, they can definitely be useful when planning almost anything -- but maybe they should call it The Triangle of Partial Truth instead!

Have We Found the Recipe for Fundraising Success?



Andrew Fegley takes a really interesting look at the rapid evolution direct mail is undergoing in his article, How Chief Marketing Officers Can Innovate With Direct Mail, on

Data and technology are being used in new and exciting ways we hadn’t dreamed possible just ten or fifteen years ago. I wrote a little bit about one example of this in my last blog.

As Andrew notes, we’re constantly improving how we use data to appeal to the right people.

Targeted and personalized fundraising is a win-win for everyone involved: 

Donors hear from the organizations they’re interested in.

Organizations raise more money for their causes.

Fewer people receive mail they don’t want.

And everyone saves money because there’s less waste.

Andrew also compares direct mail head-to-head with digital marketing. 

It wasn’t too long ago a lot people thought direct mail would go the way of the dinosaurs. Now trendy, cutting-edge organizations and companies -- the ones you’d expect to market almost exclusively online -- are launching massive direct mail campaigns and are having huge success. 

While direct mail is still top dog when it comes to raising money, the most optimized campaigns also incorporate digital methods, like social media or online advertising, in support. Each technique strengthens the others. 

This fusion of traditional direct mail with online content creates a marketing loop where we can appeal to donors in a natural and un-intrusive way.

Marketing Loop - incorporating both direct mail and digital content

Marketing Loop - incorporating both direct mail and digital content

Direct mail can funnel prospective donors or customers to an organization’s website. After looking at the website, Andrew’s data tells us a person is much more likely to convert when she receives another direct mail letter soon afterwards.

A social media account can interact with supporters of an organization and direct people to a webpage where they can sign up for a mailing list, allowing them to enter the marketing loop.

Traditional and digital marketing are most powerful when used in tandem.

Andrew finds digital marketing’s convenience, one of its clear strengths, to be a reason why some companies and organizations believe they can skip utilizing direct mail. 

With a few clicks of the mouse, an organization’s mission can be shared with people across the world -- but, as Andrew observes, the easiest option doesn’t always produce the best results. 

Though it requires a greater commitment of time, planning, testing, and tweaking, direct mail is proven to work as the backbone of fundraising campaigns.

A comprehensive marketing plan, built on direct mail with digital marketing in support, is a recipe for success.

Is this the future of direct mail?



I stumbled across a fascinating article by Henry DeVries over at Forbes, How A Direct Mail Secret Could 10X Your Response Rate.

As part of their direct mail campaign, instead of sending letters to prospective customers, a company sent mini-tablets!

Imagine opening what seems to be an ordinary piece of mail and pulling out a small tablet contained within a card stock frame.  

The tablets were preloaded with videos which played as soon as the card stock cover was lifted -- like a far more advanced musical birthday card.

If sending a neat gadget like this doesn’t catch the recipient’s eye and scream ‘premium,’ I don’t know what will.

People could even ship the tablet back to the company if they didn’t want what was being sold and it could be reused for the next mailing.

DeVries doesn’t mention it, but I wonder if customers were able to buy the product on offer using the tablet itself. Wouldn’t that be cool?

While it’s truly amazing we’ve reached the point where it’s possible to send thousands of people incredible pieces of technology, this tablet technique probably isn’t the right strategy for just about every fundraising organization. 

This campaign was launched by a for-profit company to target top-tier customers.

Right now, I think tablet mailers would be too expensive and could appear wasteful for a nonprofit organization. Those funds would probably be better spent mailing a larger quantity of conventional direct mail packages or put directly towards an organization’s mission.

However, it’s possible this mini-tablet campaign could indicate what’s to come for all direct mail as technology becomes more cost effective. 

Then again, traditional mail is still used by practically everyone, despite experts predicting its demise for decades. And direct mail in its current form is as vibrant and alive as ever.

I guess we’ll just need to wait and see. But it’s an exciting time to witness so much potential innovation.

Focus on the donor, catch his eye, and trust the data

Jeff Brooks, the man who literally wrote the book on fundraising, put together a great list of important principles he’s discovered over his 30-year career. 

Take a look at this post, 8 Transformative Things I've Learned from 30 years in Fundraising, on his Future Fundraising Now blog.

Here are some quick highlights: focus on the donor, catch the donor’s eye, and trust your data.

Jeff couldn’t be more right! These are crucial tips to keep in mind when raising money for your organization’s mission.

I highly recommend Jeff’s book, The Fundraiser’s Guide to Irresistible Communications. It’s an essential read for anyone involved in fundraising.



Ben Franklin: Founding Father of the Fundraising Ask?

We’ve long lived in a do-it-yourself culture.

Though we teach our children the value of teamwork from a young age--we also tend to see independence as a sign of strength and capability.

Conversely, we could as easily view those who constantly ask for favors and help as needy, selfish, or helpless.  Maybe this is why we’re so uncomfortable asking for help: we don’t want others to think we’re greedy or weak.

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Entitled Boomers, cynical Gen X-ers, and those darn self-obsessed Millennials: who’s right when it comes to generational giving?

Rotary phones to smart phones.  Commodores to MacBooks.  8-tracks to MP3 players.  The world is always changing for each new generation.

But one thing that may never change is the all-out war between them: from the music they listen to, the clothes they wear, their schooling, jobs, hobbies, and even they way they talk, practically EVERYTHING is up for criticism when one generation decides to start talking about another.

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What I learned about direct mail this morning...from Facebook

I haven’t reached the point that I only log into Facebook to see photos of my grandchildren--yet.  But I have to admit that I’m not quite sure what Instagram or Snap Chat are all about.  

So when I spent time this weekend with my friend Mark Murphy who embraces Social Media to promote his books, seminars, and studies at LeadershipIQ, I was surprised by how interesting Social Media can be.

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Scientists discover giving just may be the key to happiness

 It might seem romantic to say true happiness lies in what we are able to give to others--not in what we are able to gain for ourselves. 

But logically, generosity doesn’t make sense: if we want to better things for ourselves as much as possible, why do many of us give so much of what we have to others--especially when we don’t appear to benefit from the transaction?

A team of researchers in Zurich may have found the answer.

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Can I trust you?

Trust gains you new donors and retains your past donors.  Trust is what makes a donor comfortable making a sacrifice to support your cause.  Trust is what makes a donor keep giving to your cause even if he won’t personally see the direct results of what you’ve done with his donation.

In the mind of a donor, your ability to inspire trust is incredibly important.  It may even be the most important part of your relationship.

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Your stories can transform nonprofits -- a TEDx Talk with Andrea Proulx Buinicki

Andrea Proulx Buinicki is the founder of Giving Focus, a philanthropy consulting firm specializing in helping smaller nonprofits ditch the professional fundraisers and take command of their own fundraising.  Buinicki started Giving Focus in 2011 after 15 years of working in nonprofit fundraising and marketing, and was recognized in 2012 by The Northwest Indiana Times as one of Northwest Indiana’s top “20 Under 40” for her exceptional career in philanthropy

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Dan Pallota: The way we think about charity is dead wrong.

"Philanthropy is the market for love."

Dan Pallota, founder and President of the Charity Defense Council and author of Uncharitable: How Restraints on Nonprofits Undermine Their Potential, has spent his career going to bat for the nonprofit sector.

In his 2013 TED Talk -- one of the 100 most viewed TED Talks of all time -- Pallota attacks the all-too-common idea that for nonprofits, success and trustworthiness can only be measured by the money an organization doesn't spend.

This belief, lovingly called "the Overhead Myth" by those of us involved with nonprofit fundraising, has long been a ball and chain around the ankle of every small charity.  It's the belief that an organization must go to extraordinary lengths to reduce organizational costs and spending so that the highest percentage possible of every dime donated ends up in the pockets of benefactors.  

The problem?  Charities are already limiting overhead expenses as much as they can -- in some cases, to the detriment of fundraising efforts and operational efficiency -- and many potential donors still say it's not enough.

And that's when these donors take their money elsewhere.

But without employees, without a facility to operate out of, without transportation, and without funding to produce educational materials and promote projects, there is no charity.  And when nonprofits are compelled to cut funding from these areas, the services and outreach provided by these charities suffer.

The old adage goes, "you gotta spend money to make money," and most people would probably agree -- when it comes to business.  But when it comes to nonprofits?  Many people still take a frugality = morality stance.  And it's hurting charities -- and more importantly, the people they serve.

This TED Talk has been viewed more than 8 MILLION times.  And with good reason!  Take a look.