Close-up Of A Person's Hand Marking Error With Red Marker On Document

How to Make Sure Your Message Is What Stands out in Your Writing

Here’s why picky Grammar Police Officers like me point out errors: because mistakes in written materials communicate the message that details just don’t matter. So if you’re writing a project proposal, a grant funding request, or a direct mail letter, and the reader gets the impression that you don’t care about details, your request won’t rise to the top of the pile.

Here are a few of the most common errors and some tips on how to avoid them:

Apostrophes are used to indicate possession and contractions.

  • First up: Possession: Jane’s dog. Abdul’s cat. The Robinsons’ car. One exception: its is how you spell this particular possessive pronoun … as in “When I put my sweater in the dryer, it lost its shape.”
  • Next up: contractions. Words like don’t and can’t use an apostrophe to indicate there’s a letter or two missing (do not and cannot). Another example is it’s which always means it is.
  • Note that apostrophes never make a word plural – so if your see a sign reading No Dog’s Allowed on the Playground, please do me a favor and sneak over at midnight and paint over that apostrophe.

Effect and affect.

Effect is either a noun or a verb – “The sunshine is having a positive effect on my mood.” Or “The only way to effect change is to make your voice heard.” Affect is also either a noun or a verb, but most commonly a verb: “I didn’t think his insult would affect me so much.” Or “Sometimes people in shock have a flat affect, where they don’t react at all.”

Fewer/less.

Use fewer when there’s a set number of whatever you’re referring to, and less if it’s vague. For example:

Wrong: Less than 100 people were in my graduating class.

Right: Fewer than 100 people were in my graduating class.

Right:  Since fewer people go to restaurants now, there’s less crowding.

i.e. and e.g. are not interchangeable

 i.e. is Latin for that is to say or in other words. e.g. is Latin for for example. E.g.:

Right: He brought all kinds of desserts to the party, e.g., ice cream, cake, and cookies.

Right: Chris had adopted their gender-neutral name and pronoun a few years ago, when they began to publicly identify as nonbinary, i.e., neither male nor female.

And please, always add a comma after either abbreviation.

Me, myself, and I.

As the proofreading website Vappingo says, “I is the doer, and me is the done to.” As in “After I have finished shopping, please pick me up.”

It seems like people often use I incorrectly, just because it sounds fancier, so it must be right. So often, it’s not. For example:

Wrong: The party invitation was addressed to Buddy and I.

Right: The party invitation was addressed to Buddy and me.

One way to tell what’s correct in this example is to remove “Buddy and” – that way, you’ll see that “I” doesn’t work.

A couple of general rules for using myself correctly: Myself is never used in a sentence that doesn’t contain the word I. And myself never takes the place of me or I.

Wrong: The meeting attendees will include Sherry and myself.

Right: The meeting attendees will include Sherry and me.

Right: Thank you, but I can do it myself.

Yes, there is a place for an automated Spell Check in your process...

but it’s not to check spelling! Spell Check is notorious for incorrectly “correcting” grammar and spelling, so don’t count on it for that. Instead, run a Spell Check after you’ve finished proofreading your document. It will help you clean up by finding extra spaces and repeated words you need to delete, problems with capitalization, and more.

Please don’t use what I call decorative quotation marks.

These quotation marks curiously surround a word for absolutely no reason. Here’s an example:

We went to lunch at a “soup and sandwich” place and I had the “Blue Plate Special,” while my mother had the $5.00 “Senior Lunch Deal.”

These quotation marks are unnecessary and make the sentence more complicated than it needs to be – some of the quoted words are regular words that are easily understandable. Others are already highlighted by being capitalized, so you don’t need the quotes. My rule: if you’re tempted to use decorative quotation marks, remove them and see if the sentence is clear without them. I promise you, it almost always will be.

Proofreading includes fonts and graphics.

Double check your consistency with headlines and subheads (are some all upper case, and some a mix of upper and lower case?) Also, if you’re using a Table of Contents, make sure the entries in the TOC match what’s in your document, and that the page numbering is consistent. Same goes for bulleted text, font size, boldface text, etc. Consistency is key.

Also pay attention to what might be missing.

Page numbers? Date? Signature?

And just a note about making your writing resonate.

Help your readers by making everything you write crystal clear. Assume that not everyone is familiar with jargon, so avoid it if possible instead of peppering your prose with terms people might have to Google. And it’s always a good policy to spell out all abbreviations or acronyms (at least the first time) so you don’t inadvertently leave your readers behind.

If you’re not sure about a word usage or grammar rule...

… remember the Internet is your friend. Sites like Vappingo, Grammarly, and my favorite: GrammarGirl (especially her Top Ten Grammar Myths), all provide easy-to-understand rules and examples.

One last piece of advice:

It’s much easier to spot mistakes in other people’s writing … so find a friend and help each other out. It’s harder to see the mistakes in a document that you wrote and are familiar with.

The Importance of CRM Address Hygiene Upkeep

We, as marketers, are very reliant on our CRMs. Our fundraising strategy, campaign performance, and donor analytics are only as reliable as our trusted CRM data. The upkeep of this data is time-consuming and requires staffing resources and ongoing investment. However, forgoing the proper maintenance will cause long-term detriment to the entire marketing program and be a costly investment to correct. One of the most important yet simple upkeep items is keeping constituent address information up-to-date.

On average, 9.8% of people move each year and 31 million people moved in 2019. While many data vendors and mailshops can perform National Change of Address (NCOA) on your file prior to it being mailed, there is a limit on how long this remains sustainable if the data is never updated in the CRM. For instance, the USPS offers two types of NCOA products: 18-month and 48-month. Depending on which type of product the vendor has access to (most common is 18-month), determines how far back they can capture address changes.

Now, let’s assume the CRM isn’t updated with address changes, the vendor uses 18-month NCOA and the campaign mails at Marketing Mail rates (previously known as Standard Bulk Mail). If the address change was within 18-months, it will be captured by the vendor; if it is after 18-months, the vendor won’t capture the change and the USPS will deliver the piece to the address at which the constituent no longer lives. 

This can cause long-term compounded issues:
  • In all likelihood, this constituent will continue to be mailed at an incorrect address in Appeals/Renewals for the next 6-18 months. This is not only a front-end expense (print, production, and postage), but also a loss in donor engagement and further giving opportunity.
  • If this constituent is pulled into a Lapsed or Deep-Lapsed segmentation then the same issues will occur as in Appeals/Renewals (above) and that could go on for several more years.
    • This will also cause lower reactivation performance.
  • Donor analytics won’t necessarily be reliable as constituents may have only stopped giving because they were no longer receiving solicitations. Meaning, analysis numbers, such as donor retention, could be artificially lower than they should be.
  • Acquisition lists could overlap with active/lapsed donors because the active donor address is stale while Acquisition list data is consistently updated.
    • i.e.: If the same donor gives to an Acquisition campaign then the constituent will be added to the CRM which will cause duplicates (one record with a wrong address and one record with a valid address).
There are several proactive measures to keep the CRM address data up-to-date, all of which are ongoing maintenance options:
  • If your organization runs a quarterly Acquisition Program then it is likely that you are supplying the merge vendor with active, lapsed, and deep-lapsed donors to match against the outside lists. The merge vendor can return the house NCOA updates which can then be updated in the CRM.
  • An outside data vendor can run NCOA on the entire universe or a subset of the universe (active, lapsed, deep-lapsed) which can then be updated in the CRM. It is important to schedule these updates at least four times a year.
  • Some CRMs offer add-on address hygiene and change of address tools to keep addresses valid.
If the CRM is already out of date, there are several options to validate existing addresses and update those that have changed. This is a necessary step before the transition to one of the maintenance options listed above:
  • If the CRM universe has been NCOA’d in the past 48 months then using an outside data vendor to run NCOA 48-month will capture constituents who have moved within that window.
  • If the CRM universe has not been NCOA’d in the past 48 months then there are providers that offer a Proprietary Change of Address (PCOA) service. PCOA consists of address changes from outside sources such as: Utility Companies, Magazine Subscriptions, Credit Bureaus, Credit Card Companies, etc. Each provider has its own proprietary list and its retention-offering can range from 5-35 years. Most PCOA providers will also process NCOA 48-month at the same time.
    • PCOA can be an expensive service, mainly depending on total file quantity.
Once the CRM addresses have been updated then it is best to work towards isolating and merging duplicate constituents as there is a high chance duplicates have been created over time.

There are many other CRM data upkeep items that are just as important. Chapman Cubine Allen + Hussey will continue this series in 2021 to include items such as: deceased data appends, apartment appends, telephone appends, ECOA/eAppends, and demographic appends. If you would like help with your data processing needs, reach out to work with us. 

We Changed Our Name!

On behalf of Jim Hussey and Lon Chapman, it is with excitement and pride that we announce that Jenny Allen has been made a name partner and moving forward our firm will be called Chapman Cubine Allen + Hussey!

Jenny has been an integral part of the growth and success of CCAH these past several years.  She has helped drive the diversification of our client base as well as the expansion of our digital, analytical, and database services.  Jenny is known as a creative powerhouse. 

Jenny is as passionate a person as you will find.  She is devoted to the missions of the organizations that CCAH represents, and her clients consider her a friend in addition to a trusted counselor.  Her ethics are unimpeachable, and her sense of humor and salty vernacular make working with her fun.  

She is a true leader at our company and has earned her place on the masthead.

Please join me and the rest of the CCAH family in celebrating our newest name partner, Jenny Allen.

Chapman Cubine Allen and Hussey

AAPC Names Chrissy Hyre to 40 Under 40 List for 2020

Each year, the American Association of Political Consultants (AAPC) selects some of the best in our nation’s political business community to honor on their 40 Under 40 list, recognizing their leadership and innovation. This year CCAH is fortunate enough to have one of our own on that list – Ms. Chrissy Hyre.

Chrissy was nominated for the award by a fellow CCAH employee, Catherine Algieri. Chrissy and Catherine have been working together since 2018, when Chrissy was Catherine’s consultant for her work at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Catherine has since joined the CCAH team to head our new political digital program and, in her words, “realized I didn’t know the half of what Chrissy brings to the table.”

Chrissy’s work to expand the use of telemarketing programs in progressive political campaigns has helped her to make millions of voter contacts for candidates like Andrew Gillum for Governor and Kamala Harris for President, as well as for politically motivated organizations like Collective PAC and Citizen Action. She paved the way for peer-to-peer mobile platforms like Hustle and Get Thru to work with telemarketing firms and utilize live operators that would allow organizations and candidates to dramatically scale up their engagement efforts over SMS.

Chrissy wasn’t always planning on innovating the world of political fundraising; in college, she initially registered as a musical theatre major. The common thread between her aspirations as a thespian and her work now as a consultant? Vulnerability. According to Chrissy: “We ask our clients to put an incredible amount of trust in us … so we need to show up in a really authentic way to build those relationships.”

In that spirit, Chrissy’s work in the industry of political consulting has been nothing short of visionary. As an inventive team player, Chrissy has earned accolades from her clients, business contacts, and here at CCAH, where she was made a partner in March of this year. We are so glad that the AAPC has recognized her hard work by adding her to their 40 Under 40 list, and we look forward to honoring her future accomplishments. Congratulations, Chrissy!

Fundraising During This Time of Turmoil

In times of upheaval, it’s not unusual for a nonprofit organization or a political candidate to temporarily suspend their fundraising solicitations.

During my 35-year career, I have witnessed several events that triggered many nonprofit causes to take such action, including 9/11 and the beginning of the great recession in 2008. 

However, the year 2020 is prompting a reaction previously unseen within the fundraising industry.

Jim Hussey, Chairman

The coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic downturn caused many organizations to suspend their fundraising campaigns in March. Unlike the fundraising suspensions in 2001 and 2008, these interruptions were … and for some continue to be … much longer.

Following the onset of the coronavirus crisis, the murder of George Floyd was the catalyst for a new wave of protests in cities from New York to Los Angeles and everywhere in between – another reason to reevaluate fundraising campaigns.

And 2020 is far from over. The remainder of the year promises even more turbulence.

In addition to the ongoing threat of the coronavirus, the troubling and divisive political situation within the nation guarantees even more tumult, especially during the final quarter of this year. The election in November, as well as its lead up and aftermath, may be the most politically contentious period in modern American history.

So what do we do? Should nonprofit organizations constantly suspend and revive their fundraising efforts with each new, dramatic event? No.

For the sake of the causes we care about, we must continue on the path forward and push through the storms we are facing. We must carry on.

Even the temporary suspension of solicitation efforts can set your program behind by months or even years. A fundraising program is like a train … once stopped, it takes much time and effort to restart it and get up to speed.

In addition to the immediate loss of income, the suspension of donor acquisition efforts will cause attrition, instigating major downturns in your donor file that will further impact your efforts in future years.

Control packages and language atrophy without the constant testing necessary to keep them viable, necessitating further testing and smaller rollouts when the program is reinstated, until confidence in the market is rebuilt.

Decisions to suspend fundraising often come from outside the development office, by supervisors who too often are cynical about fundraising, and view it as a necessary evil.

More must be done to educate our nonprofit leaders that fundraising is about more than asking someone for money. It’s about empowering the donor and providing them with a chance to address an issue which is important to them. Suspending fundraising operations denies them that opportunity.

Nonprofit leaders often believe they are doing a favor for their donors by giving them a break. In reality, the donors probably don’t notice. But once loyal donors move on to other organizations that are less reluctant to ask for their involvement and help, and it is incredibly difficult to bring them back to the fold.

It’s best to address major events directly. If everyone’s attention is directed toward a particular issue … acknowledge it in your copy.

Don’t ignore the elephant in the room.

Your donors will not be angry with you for continuing to advocate for an issue that is important to you both, even in difficult times.

How are you fundraising right now? We’d love to hear how your organization has been reacting to and coping with 2020’s current events. Tell us in the comments!

Fundraising During a Pandemic – Tips & Considerations for Donor Selections

As we enter the third month of the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations have settled into a new normal and accepted the crisis as the surround sound of their missions. CCAH, in partnership with our clients, has adjusted and is continuing to readjust revenue projections and expectations. We are closely scrutinizing incoming returns from outbound solicitations.

For those organizations not directly impacted or serving beneficiaries impacted by the pandemic, there may be a temptation to scale back fundraising asks of their donors. Most organizations recognize this is not a prudent approach for the long-term viability of serving their missions, and CCAH strongly counsels against the exclusion of efforts, or cutting back too severely.

Is there a middle ground? Can organizations continue to solicit donations from their donors, while at the same time acknowledging not all donors on their file have the capacity or interest to give right now?

Yes! You can find donors who are willing and able to help you continue furthering your mission. We suggest targeting those house file donors that are the most in love with you. But how do you know who they are? 

We recommend considering some of these selection criteria to choose your donors:

Donors who have given for 5 or more years consecutively to your organization – including this year

Within this group, further identify the long-on-file (example, 10+ years), highly consistent donors (giving 75% or more of the time they have been on your file) with a lifetime revenue of perhaps $1,200+. Consider using as many channels as possible: SMS, phone, and/or email, connecting with them in much the same way you would with family and friends. Send an affirmative message showing you care such as: “these are uncertain times, we hope you’re doing okay” to solidify your donors’ relationship with your organization.

New donors acquired after March 17, 2020

Also, consider adjusting the new donor onboarding and the acknowledgement language new donors receive during this crisis. Adjust messaging to reflect the current environment (e.g. make sure it’s not just the normal welcome series, since that may not sound authentic to new donors at this time).

Lapsed Donors

Typically, reinstated lapsed donors tend to be more valuable than newly acquired donors.

As such, re-prioritize the more recently lapsed (like 13-36 months lapsed donors) and focus on those who were multi-year consecutive donors before they lapsed. Where possible, further refine by focusing on those who have been on your database for a substantial period of time (consider 7+ years), and who had given a cumulative amount of $100 or more. We recommend removing any new or reactivated donors who lapsed again.

Target these lapsed donors via SMS, ads, and email where possible. Multichannel contacts will increase the rate of conversions. 

Sustainers

Target committed donors who, after becoming a sustainer, have given additional one-time donations. Do you know who these sustainers are? If not, find them.

They are some of your best donors! Consider narrowing this selection further to the time period after March 17, 2020. 

Identify those sustainers who voluntarily upgraded their monthly committed amount, has anyone done this after March 17, 2020? Then identify monthly donors who converted to giving monthly donations after making one-time gifts for a significant period of time (like 7+ years) or maybe even those who have been on your database for 10 or more years in totality.

Other Donor Constituencies for Selection:

  • Donors who have given in the last 18 months and have returned a completed mail survey (digital survey completion as secondary)
  • Donors who volunteered their change of address (not auto-NCOA updated)
  • Multichannel donors who have given to two or more channels both this year and last year
  • Active (0-18 month) donors who are also coded as:
    • Active Advocates
    • Fundraising on the behalf of the organization
    • Current Volunteers
  • Donors donating using alternate payment methods:
    • Donor Advised Funds               
    • Family Foundations
    • Stocks

As we navigate this uncertain time, it’s important to make informed choices that best serve the overall missions of our clients. While we need to be mindful of the environment we are mailing within, we can use careful donor selection as an opportunity to keep the best donors involved and keep striving toward organizational goals.

Who are the donors you have identified as your strongest supporters, or do you need help finding them? We’re happy to help, reach out and work with us!