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” to find out how that thing is put together—how it works its magic.
I find myself doing this not just with fundraising appeals, but with concert booking pitches, bios, cover letters, CVs, grant proposals, artist statements—the whole gamut of musicians’ marketing material.
Yeah, I know, it’s a nerdy compulsion.
But this life-long affliction—my curiosity and investigative habit—has not only enabled me to help more musicians, but it’s also kept my work continually fascinating.
This habit has led to new insights, to finding new tools, and it has helped me synthesize my skills, experience, and personal development.
But my habit, when shared, carries 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, musicians sometimes unfortunately mimic or “borrow” from the example, either consciously or not. And this never turns out well. It’s like dressing in someone else’s clothes and pretending to be someone you’re not.
Because what works for one organization or individual—the specifics of their message and language—only applies to them.
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.’
Because it’s all too easy to read an inspiring example and simply change a few words and think that you’re good to go.
Or conversely, to dismiss an example, thinking it doesn’t apply to you because the example is “a far more established group—that’s not us.” or to say “That’s just not my style or the vibe of my organization.”
Either way you’d be missing out on what you can actually get from analyzing good examples.
Instead, I recommend when you’re looking at any promotional material, to set your ego aside. And hit the “pause” button on any comparing between what you’re looking at and your own situation. Just get curious about what makes that example work.
Try it now with the organization whose fundraising blurb activated my curiosity and investigative habit.
Here’s a quick intro: if you don’t know 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.”
So here’s that fundraising blurb that got me to stop and read, and feel compelled by the cause.
Read it 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!
What did you notice?
Here’s what came up for me:
1. It starts with an inclusive invitation to “Join Our National Movement” — and belong to a larger force for good.
2. The blurb starts with a reminder of the good work the organization does and what it’s for. Because ultimately, it’s not simply about the artists that are helped—it’s about the impact they make in their communities.
3. The second sentence is an inclusive (and flattering) explanation of how the work gets done: “only made possible through 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 a reminder of the important larger mission ” . . . so we can 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.
What did this example illuminate for you?
What questions came up?
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—how concise, direct, and compelling are you?
If you analyze your own messaging sentence by sentence, you can clarify the real point of each sentence so you can see clearly what’s compelling and what can be trimmed.
I find that the majority of less effective promo materials are riddled with generalizations and clichés, and cluttered with adjectives and adverbs that undermine the potential power of the message itself.
There’s something liberating and energizing in the simple declarative statements of this example.
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