This blog will help you win loyal friends for your nonprofit organization. I'm Dennis Fischman, and I approved this message.

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When People are in Mourning, Don’t Try to Sell!

Thank you to everyone who expressed their sympathies on the death of my brother Ron Fischman.

And no thanks to the sales rep who called my dear wife Rona the day after Ron died…and wouldn’t take no for an answer.

We heard the news of Ron’s death on Wednesday, October 1. On Thursday, a company that does business with Google called Rona about her business page.

“Good morning, Rona, and how are you today?”

“Not very good, actually. My brother-in-law died yesterday.”

“Oh, so sorry to hear that. I won’t take much of your time. I noticed that your company had recently moved. Would you like help changing your physical address on Google?”

“I don’t want to buy anything today, but if you can help me with that, let’s take a minute and do it.”

“Great! I also want to tell you about the SEO services our company can offer your business.”

“What? Did you hear what I just said? What kind of monster are you?”

And the sales rep hung up.

Whether you’re selling a product or a service or asking for a donation, when someone is in mourning, just stop. Period. “I’m sorry for your loss, and I’ll call back another time” is acceptable. Nothing more, not one word.

If common decency isn’t enough reason, think of this: do you want people to think of their loved one’s death every time they think of you?

Halloween in September

Halloween lawn

The lawn was eerie. Long strands of spider web draped over its length, a bat hovering over the withering shrubs, and a gravestone poking up from the dried grass.

The scariest thing was, it was a full month before Halloween!

As you can guess, I’m not a big fan of Halloween in September, or Christmas in October, or back-to-school in July. But you should be-when you’re filling in your communications calendar.

Creating a good message takes time. For that article you want to write or that video you want to record, you may need to find facts, or set up a photo shoot.  You may need to interview someone. How long will it take to schedule that meeting? You don’t want to do any of that at the last minute.

Schedule that message weeks or even months in advance. Then schedule the steps it will take to create that message.

Your audience needs time to respond, too.

Have you ever received an invitation to attend an event the day after you were supposed to RSVP?

If your message is inviting people to attend an event, “call your member of Congress TODAY!,” or anything else with a deadline, you need to send it to them well in advance.

That means you have to start creating the message even earlier, and send it out more often.

Yes, you can wait until the last minute to create your message and hope inspiration strikes. Yes, you can gamble that your supporters will drop everything to respond to your call to action.

But that’s like Halloween in September. It’s just…scary.

Bringing New Board Members on Board

A nonprofit organization where I used to work was proud that it had recruited the Director of Administration & Finance from a state association to its Board. After a year, he agreed to become the Treasurer. Then, one of his personal friends fell on hard times and used our services.

“Wow,” he said, “I didn’t know we did that!” And “Wow,” he said, “I didn’t know we could do that!” He told the story of how the organization had helped his friend forever after.

A happy ending, yes. But what if he didn’t happen to know any of our clients personally? We would have failed him—because we should have told him a story like that when he came on board.