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November 9, 2010 
 
 
The Art of the Thank You

CFO's from the United Negro College Fund, Urban League, and the Associated Builders and Contractors headline our next big Bisnow Breakfast & Schmooze. Keep apprised of fiscal opportunities, starting with our special price: $25. Sign up today!

 
A thank you is not just the last step in a campaign. It can also make or break a second gift. Fundraising guru and Cygnus Research president Penelope Burk read 500 non-profit thank you letters and shared some advice on what organizations should do differently before licking the envelope.
 
Fundraising guru and president of Cygnus Research Penelope Burk
"The opening line is everything," Penelope says. "The first thing you say determines whether they will read it." Unfortunately, nearly every opening line says the same thing: "Thank you for your generous gift..." A good opening line captures the reader's attention. One of Penelope's favorites comes from the Alzheimer's Association: "You remembered for those who can't." It's short, moving, and commands attention. Next, include a statement about specifically where the money is going. This should be something narrower than the mission as a whole. Penelope explains that donors often give the first time time to the organization's brand, but after that, selling the brand no longer works. Instead, donors start to think like investors, and investors want to see what happened to that gift and the ROI.
 
NavigationArts (nonprofi
 
Fundraising guru and president of Cygnus Research Penelope Burk
The whole letter should be no longer than a single paragraph. Anything longer and organizations revert to sales copy. At the end, include info for donors on who they can contact if they ever have a question. If you wait until that donor hits that $5,000 mark to assign someone, 95% will never get there. Initially, there may be very little contact, but at least the door is open. Lastly, have the "right person," usually a volunteer leader, sign it. Send it out promptly.

Bisnow
Future of the Internet
 
AOL co-founder Steve Case
You think the Internet is everywhere now, eh? Just wait. "Father of the Internet" Vint Cerf and AOL co-founder Steve Case (above) spoke at a Bisnow event last week. They told the crowd of 600 that the Net as a platform will become so ubiquitous that it'll be invisible in the background. “It’s going to be about different experiences with different applications anywhere on myriad devices,” Steve says. He envisions a world where the Internet is so commonplace that the "e" is dropped from "e-mail" and "e-commerce." No word on Internet connectivity embedded in our brains.
Vint Cerf
Privacy may also be headed the way of the floppy disk. Vint says society evolves with technology, and future generations will be more comfortable with what personal info goes online. The boundaries of privacy already differ from culture to culture. In Sweden, for example, everyone’s salary is public information. Also, Vint told the crowd that he threw away the paper that he and fellow Internet pioneer Bob Kahn hand-wrote at Stanford outlining their ideas for what became the Internet. He wishes he had it today . . . to take to an auction house. (Or more appropriately, sell on eBay. Pardon us, on Bay.)

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Meet Our Sponsor:
Fight Night
 
Fight Night
Fight for Children’s Jeff Travers tells us Fight Night is an exclusive, thrilling party with a great dinner, boxing, the Redskins cheerleaders, musical group Grand Funk Railroad, a packed after-party at the Ritz-Carlton, and much more. But he says the event is bigger than all of that. “It's a great opportunity to help kids get a brighter future.” Money raised at Fight Night supports Fight for Children, whose mission is to make sure low income children in Washington receive a great education.
 
Fight For Children chairman Joseph E. Robert, Jr. and his son Joseph E. Robert, III
Tickets for the big event next Thursday are in limited supply, Jeff tells us, as the event has sold out every year (these good looking gentlemen, however, aren’t Jeff, but rather Fight For Children chairman Joe Robert, Jr. and his son Joe Robert, III, who was last year’s Fight Night chairman. Rick Kay of Sentrillion is chairing the event this year). Those who attend won’t leave disappointed, Jeff says. “It’s really a throwback to an earlier day—we serve large steaks, give out great cigars to smoke during the event inside the hotel, and put a pro boxing ring in the middle of the international ballroom at the Washington Hilton.” To buy tickets, go here.

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e-Campaign
 
Habitat for Humanity Montgomery County executive director John Paukstis
Speaking of the future of the Internet... Habitat for Humanity Montgomery County executive director John Paukstis tells us the organization just launched its first e-campaign. It has traditionally used direct mail for fundraising and currently gets about 5% of its donations online. The goal of the six-week campaign (now half way in) is to increase online donations through Network for Good and online communication with donors and supporters. "A lot of folks use the Internet exclusively. They don't really want papers," John says. (Unless, per above, you're Vint Cerf, and that paper outlines your ideas for the Internet.) The non-profit has spent a lot of time not just building houses, but building its social media presence. John tells us one of the challenges is how to tell compelling stories online. In addition to blog updates, YouTube videos, and weekly e-mails, they've created a website called the "Habitat Bunch," a play on The Brady Bunch that tells the stories of six partner families going to purchase affordable homes thanks to Habitat.
 
Send story ideas to Jessica Sidman, jessica@bisnow.com.
 
 
 
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