I recently came across another arts organization’s fundraising blurb that I found inspiring. And this got me curious about why. It’s a knee jerk reaction of mine. Whenever I read, see, or hear something that excites me, I find I want to “look under the hood.” I want to learn how the pieces fit together and how it works its magic.
I find myself doing this not just with fundraising appeals, but with other promo materials for musicians. From concert booking pitches and bios, to cover letters, CVs, and grant proposals—the whole gamut of musicians’ marketing material.
Yeah, I know, it’s a nerdy compulsion.
My life-long affliction—my curiosity and investigative habit—has had its upside. It’s not only enabled me to help more musicians. It’s also kept my work fascinating.
And thanks to this curiosity habit, I find insights and new tools all the time.
But there’s a risk.
Whenever I show examples of any good promotional material to a musician I’m working with, there’s a danger.
The problem with examples
Instead of analyzing and learning from the example, it’s too easy to mimic or “borrow” from the text. Whether consciously or not, this never turns out well. It’s like dressing in someone else’s clothes and pretending to be someone you’re not.
Because the specifics of an organization’s compelling message needs to be shaped by its own mission and history.
So whenever I show examples to clients, I do my best to explain that this will only help if they analyze and learn from the example—and NOT copy or else get caught up in ‘compare and despair.’
It’s all too easy to read an inspiring example, change a few words and think that you’re good to go.
Or else we may dismiss an example because it’s not an exact match for our own situation. We may think, “that’s for a far more established group—that’s not where we are.” or “That’s just not my style or the vibe of my organization.”
Either way we miss out on what we can actually gain from analyzing good examples.
Instead, I recommend when you’re looking at any promotional material, to set your ego aside. Hit the “pause” button on any comparing between what you’re looking at and your own situation. And be curious about what makes that example work.
Try it now.
Below is the organization’s fundraising blurb that activated my curiosity and investigative habit.
If you’re unfamiliar with Creative Capital, it’s a fabulous organization that provides project support funds and professional development opportunities for artists of every discipline. Their tag line captures who they are in a nutshell: “Investing in Artists Who Shape the Future.”
Background from their site: “Creative Capital was founded on the belief that artists are exceptional innovators and thought leaders who, with the proper financial and advisory support, can change the world. Our pioneering venture philanthropy approach helps artists working in all disciplines realize their visions and build sustainable practices. Since 1999, we have committed $45 million in financial and advisory support to 561 projects representing 700 groundbreaking artists.”
Here’s that compelling fundraising blurb that got me to stop and read.
Check it out and notice how it’s put together. What works for you in this?
Join Our National Movement
You can see Creative Capital’s impact in communities both large and small, from innovative awardee project premieres to workshops designed specifically to help artists build thriving practices. But our work is only made possible through support from generous people like you. We hope you feel inspired to donate to Creative Capital so we can continue to support artists across the country who are contributing to the cultural landscape in bold and imaginative ways. Thank you for believing in Creative Capital and the power of artists!
Now let’s look under the hood at the anatomy of a fundraising pitch
Here’s what I notice in the example above:
1. It starts with an inclusive invitation to “Join Our National Movement,” to belong to a larger force for good.
2. The blurb begins with a reminder of the good work the organization does and who it’s for. It’s not simply aimed at the artists who receive support: it’s about the communities those artists impact.
3. The second sentence is an inclusive (and flattering) explanation of how the work gets done. What makes it possible is the “support from generous people like you.”
4. The third sentence is an aspirational call to action, “We hope you feel inspired to donate . . .”
5. Plus there’s a reminder of the important larger mission. To ” . . . continue to support artists across the country who are contributing to the cultural landscape in bold and imaginative ways.”
6. Last is a rallying call—an extra incentive to help readers take the intended action. “Thank you for believing in Creative Capital and the power of artists!” And of course, the ‘support us’ button.
In reading this example, what ideas did you gain that you can put into action?
When it comes to your own fundraising messages—or for that matter ANY of your promo materials—there’s an essential question. It’s this: how concise, direct, and compelling are you?
Analyze your own messaging. Take it one sentence at a time and ask yourself, what am I really trying to say here? That way you can see what’s essential and trim the rest.
Most musician promo materials are full of generalizations and clichés, adjectives and adverbs. These undermine the power of your message.
The good news is you can learn from good examples like the one above to improve your promo materials!
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