Half a lifetime ago, I found myself the newly appointed 27-year-old Executive Director of a small nonprofit. I had lots of energy and woefully little experience. I was particularly ignorant about fundraising, though my board chair expressed confidence that I could pick it up as I went along. She also made it clear that, given the organization’s financial straits, I had better do that picking-up rather quickly.
I knew enough to know that, well, I didn’t know very much. So I called up a friend of a friend who for twenty years had run the successful development office at an elite prep school. Richard, a man then in his fifties, proved to be very welcoming, and he took some pity on the skinny, bushy-haired, earnest kid before him. We spent an hour or so talking about how to engage donors, in person and on paper.
I asked him if he would mind reviewing my first-ever solicitation letter.
Richard read my letter. He smiled and said, “Really, it’s very good. Now just take out half the adjectives.” Continue reading