Book Review by Brian Bateman

The Fundraiser’s Guide to Irresistible Communications- Real World Field-Tested Strategies for Raising More Money by Jeff Brooks, Emerson & Church, 2012

This brief book is packed with gems. Wisdom. Inspiration. Creativity. More importantly it is direct and honest. $22 for this little 150 page paperback? This quick read is worth your money, your organizations’ budget and your precious time.

Every volunteer, committee or board member is certain they know how to raise money. Worse yet, your executive director, president, Dean, board chair knows best. Early on in the book, Mr. Brooks equips you to work with self-appointed well meaning philanthropic know it alls. He says, “Fundraising is a profession. It has a body of knowledge and a set of principles. It’s not a jerry-rigged monstrosity created by amateurs and volunteers. It’s not a dumbed-down version of commercial marketing.”

From here he launches into reminders of what you do and why. What raises money and what does not. The topic is direct mail. But reminders abound of the importance of the case, the donor, the solicitation and stories. You find yourself eager to start the next appeal letter. Or just to sit down and read the book again to bathe in the supportive and familiar and ponder at the permission Brooks gives to lighten up and be real. You feel yourself grinning from ear to ear as he debunks all the shared myths.

You will not be surprised that donors are your heroes in all your communication. But do you know to ask 6 or 7 times, make the letter long and ignore grammar? That the PS always gets read? This book is not espousing fundraising art or philosophy. It is a pragmatic unabashed guide about what you need to do to raise money. This 20- year veteran, Jeff Brooks has tested all aspects of direct mail with some of the finest organizations in Europe and North America. He clearly outlines pragmatic tested tactics that have brought in gifts over time. You may not like them or believe them, but you must use them because they work.

You will find yourself smiling as you read the familiar and learn the counter-intuitive. Brooks has worked with team members like yours who constantly offer you their well-intentioned comments, criticism and input. While the fundamental truths resound with you. You also get affirmation– even scientific proof of what you know from listening to donors and testing letters yourself.  Give this little expose to those who rewrite and edit your appeal, or take it home to their English major or literature scholar. Agree that you don’t have to agree, but that you want to raise money.

The tenets are simple, but using all the wisdom is not easy. This book will put you to work. All the while you are taking the mantel, practicing the profession and doing what the donor wants. This can’t help but impact your success and inform all your communication. Read it. Do it. Share it. Celebrate the results.

The next time you leave another meeting with more advice about how to do your job from people who “don’t get it”, just hold this book and smile. Pick a page or two to read. Better yet, turn to the last chapter, Proud to be a Fundraiser. You know your profession and you have listened well to a seasoned, successful mentor’s best advice for success.

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