Student Examples: Choose Your Idea
Welcome back to How to Write and Publish your eBook. Now we've spent the last lesson talking about how to actually choose your topic, what you're gonna write this book on, and then what you need to kind of start creating your outline, figuring out what's actually gonna be in that book, what's gonna help get it read so you can achieve the particular goal that you have for your book and for your business. Now I can talk at you all day about how to get this stuff done, but until you see an example of it, until we work through some problems, it's not really gonna sink in, so for every lesson in this class, we're gonna have some student examples and so that's what we are up to now. And so to kick us off, I'm gonna invite Shannon up to our fun little area here, to kind of workshop through exactly what we covered in that first lesson. So before we do that, though, tell us again who you are, what you do, and then we'll go from there.
Great, so I'm Shannon Doolittle, and I work in the nonprof...
it space, so I'm a fundraising mentor and coach and I help nonprofits raise more money by teaching them how to take better care of their supporters.
Love that, okay
So let's actually start off by kind of, why do you wanna write a book in the first place and not just why but also, where are you at right now in your business that this seems to be the time to do it?
So I would say in my industry, I do a ton of speaking, and so I also have had the opportunity to do a number of keynotes, and a lot of times afterwards people are asking me where can I buy your book or where is your book, and I say I don't have a book! And when you look at other people in our industry that are speaking and at the same level that I am, all of them have books, so I kind of feel like wow, potentially I'm leaving clients, there's no way for them to interact with me after besides going to my website and kind of checking out what I do versus I have a book and I would love to sign that for you because that's what I do, I love handwritten things and so I think that's why, is I want a book if everybody else has a book. It's my turn,
It's my turn.
And that is a perfectly fair reason to do it, absolutely.
But it also sounds like you're potentially leaving money on the table, you're leaving clients on the table, and you're probably leaving even more speaking gigs on the table. Do you wanna do more speaking?
I do wanna do more speaking, absolutely.
Totally, and all of those theory things work together really well, too. So tell me what do you think at this point is the topic for your book?
So it's gonna be on gratitude. So in terms of what I do, is I teach people how to retain their donors, which sounds horrible, but what that means is just how do you love on your donors so they stay with your cause and they keep giving to you, they keep donating to you because they really adore the way that you treat them.
Yeah, and why is that so important?
Because in our sector in the fundraising sector, and I don't know if you give to charities as well, you probably have a few that you give to, typically we lose four out of 10 donors every year and if it's a first-time donor, we lose two out of of them every year, so if you think of the for-profit culture and having to keep 80% plus to stay viable, in the nonprofit sector we're between 20 and 40% in terms of retaining our supporters which is ridiculously bad.
And it shouldn't be that way considering our passion is giving and helping other people.
Yes, so this is a problem?
It's a problem, it's a big problem, and a lot of times we're so focused on raising money, like getting new donors that we actually don't pay attention to our best prospect which is the donor that we already have.
Okay, fantastic, so you've got your problem nailed and this is definitely a problem that people in the nonprofit sector are very aware of, right? Like this is not some hidden pain point, this is like stressed out every day about how to retain
This is I'm on
The fundraising treadmill again, get me off please.
Yeah, so yeah, so it's not even just that specific problem but it's all the kind of ripple effect problems that come with it as well.
Okay, fantastic, so that kind of leads us into the overview and what you and I are gonna do is kinda just go down that, you know, step by step system that I laid out in terms of the proposal process, and just make sure that your idea is as refined as possible and give everybody a really great example.
So if this is the problem, that kind of kicks us off into the overview, what is, what is the solution but what's the outcome? If people have a system for loving up on their donors, expressing that gratitude, keeping people around, what is the ultimate result from that?
It's a pretty simple result, they raise more money so they raise more money so they can do more good in the communities that they serve.
Yeah, absolutely and that's, their main mission
It's to help others.
Yeah, awesome. So your overview kind of writes itself.
Now hopefully the others write themselves.
Alright, so the second part actually might be trickier. Who is your ideal reader?
So my ideal reader is actually a fundraiser, so someone who is on the ground, trying to get either others as in board members or other staff people to share gratitude or to show gratitude to their donors. So a lot of times we're one-person shows, where we do all the work, but you need a team, so I always say stewardship is more fun with friends, but it's hard when you don't know how to get other people or inspire other people to share gratitude.
Okay, alright, so kind of going back to the overview for a second.
It sounds like this then is not just about how to, it's not just a system for retaining, it's really about motivating and inspiring the entire organization to become part of the fundraising process.
Yes, that's what I want.
Okay, that's fantastic.
And you just cleared that up for me, I mean I actually didn't know.
Okay so that needs to be like, when you're thinking about your overview, the why this book is important, that's why it's important, that's refining it down into that diamond that I talked about earlier, right? You can write a book about retaining donors, but I would bet no one has written a book on motivating organizations to be part of the retention process.
You're right, you're always right.
You're welcome. (audience laughs)
So who else then, that sounds like your most ideal reader, then, who else is in the audience for this? 'Cause this is one place where the ideal customer and the ideal reader sort of diverge a little bit because we know, we read books all the time that aren't meant exactly for us. If you're gonna invest $5,000 dollars in a coaching program, you want it to be exactly for you, right? But books, we can read lots of books
Any and all.
And they cost five dollars, $10 dollars, $20 dollars, so we can broaden, we need to know specifically who we're writing for and then we also can know the other people who might enjoy the book or who might get something out of it, so tell us more about those people.
I just think in general, and I mean, I'm leaping over into your world and working with entrepreneurs, there's definitely room for business owners to figure out how to love on their customers, 'cause that doesn't happen as much either, and the sense of a handwritten note or a thank you call to a customer, it's like whoa, whoa what? But I mean in terms of either getting a client to stay with you or having that word of mouth happen, that happens through gratitude and a sharing of gratitude. So I think that there's a lot of people out there that are like oh, I'm grateful, like I do a gratitude journal and to me it's one thing to feel grateful or be grateful, but it's another thing to do grateful, to share grateful. So that for me are just people who want to know okay, I just need to tell people in my life that they mean something to me, so how do I do that? So I think that it has a much bigger message in terms of other people that might want to read it, but it's probably somebody who's driven by relationships.
And caring for other people.
Well and even just right in the nonprofit sector, too, you have people on boards of directors, you have executive directors
Volunteers, and all of those people who might buy that book, read it, love it, and take it into the organization that they feel most passionate about, right?
Yeah, or I love the idea of a donor reading that book and saying you're not doing this, you know, and giving it to the nonprofit and saying, hey, here's just something that might help you keep more people like me.
Fantastic, so we've got your whole ecosystem of readership down then.
It happened so fast with you, I love it. Okay, yes.
Okay, so let's talk about market analysis. 'Cause this is a market that I know very little about. Like I love the idea of helping nonprofits with entrepreneurial ideas and business strategy and all of that, but in terms of what's out there already in terms of thought leadership, I don't know anything about this. So you're going to have to fill us in,
What are some of the other books out there that those fundraisers, heads of fundraising are reading?
So I think they're reading a lot, some of the strategy right now in the nonprofit world is all about storytelling, which really matters so there's a lot of books out there about storytelling, how to tell your story, there's a lot of books around retention fundraising
Or donor-centered fundraising which is all about making your donor, your customer the hero of your story instead of you, which is really important but a lot of it is theory or it's philosophy or it's here's a study that shows XYZ but it doesn't necessarily like you said get into the sort of nitty-gritty of like how.
So sort of that step-by-step of how you actually then write a handwritten note. I mean I know it sounds like I can write a handwritten note, but really? Because you know what, are you choosing this stamp that relates to your mission? Probably not, you're just sticking a Forever Flag on there where if you're social justice, put one of the emancipation stamps on there. So I mean it's that kind of detail that people don't think about that would help them kind of, that would help them get to know their donor or let their donor know this organization gets my values.
I love it.
I love it.
So I'm assuming there's gonna be a lot of case studies or examples in this book.
Yes, absolutely, so that's what I really wanna do is actually have handwritten notes that are written to donors because even as you were talking about how to zero it in, 'cause I thought well maybe I would focus on three different things like thank you calls, whatever, but then I was like no, no, no I really gotta narrow it down and I think that whole idea around a personal touch like a handwritten note which is really what I love about doing what I do, are handwritten notes. I'm not really the phone call girl, I don't do good phone so I love that idea of teaching people how to do this and how to feel comfortable with their writing. And letting them know just forget that your handwriting is bad because it's not as bad as you think it is, believe me. Believe me, it's not.
Alright, awesome. So that brings us to author information. Why are you the right person to write this book?
So I think from a professional level when I look back at what I've done at the organizations that I've worked in I've not necessarily worked for, as a consultant or a coach, is I have taken donor relation programs at my own organizations and I've taken a retention rate of 20% and I've raised it over 70% in three years just by doing phone calls or handwritten notes, the personal touches that we have to have, the individual touchpoints that we need to have with donors, so and I've replicated that over and over and with other people. On a personal side of this, the reason why I really wanna write this book is because I actually grew up in foster care and so for me, there was a moment in my life where when CPS came to me and said, you're going to be taken from your home, what that meant was I wasn't only gonna be taken from my home, I was gonna be taken from my school, and when you're a little girl, I mean that's all you have is your home and your school, and in that moment my school nurse who was in that room stood up and said, is there any way I can take Shannon to and from school every day so that at least one thing doesn't have to change in her life? And they said yes, and so that nurse who I then lost touch with as I grew up, when I turned 18, and was writing a scholarship to my elementary school about why I wanted a scholarship and it was more who impacted you the most, I talked about Nurse Carol, because she was the one that changed my life, and when I wrote that letter, the letter that she wrote me back was one of the most powerful moments in my life, so for me, it was about just, I always felt grateful to her but never telling her I was leaving that gift to her off the table, and when I gave it to her, the gift that I received back in terms of her words to me was like a power hug that has kept me going for a long time in terms of what I do to try to help people help more people in our industry, so anyway, it's personal and professional but I think there's a power of story there but then there's also a power of proof in terms of why you do this for your donors.
So I said earlier that right, it's not just your expertise, it's not your experience, it's not even you know, the credibility that you have of all these metrics that you've been able to change, it's those stories that make you the right person to write this book. I mean I don't wanna get ahead of myself but I think that that sounds like a fantastic story to open the whole thing with
Yeah, I was thinking that
And really set the stage. Write that story down, relate it back to your experience in the nonprofit, profit sector (laughs)
And just kind of loop it all in together to set the tone for this practice, this attitude, this culture of gratitude that then can be woven all the way through an organization and not just the director of fundraising.
Okay, perfect, so that's the intro, by the way. So coming back, I guess, I don't, there's probably no way that we can kind of go through an outline or a table of contents here, but do you feel like, do you have any questions or any concerns about the structure of your book at this point?
I have a few ideas, so a lot of books, like for instance when I read your books, I mean they're straight words and they're empowering and they're inspirational and then you obviously are action Jackson about here's what you do next. So how much do you, do you want to put like a worksheet or for me if it's about a handwritten note, do I put some Mad Lib-style examples in there like kind of fill in the blank if you're stuck? I mean how much of your book should just be words teaching or informing or inspiring, and how much maybe should be like a worksheet or two?
Yeah, so that's a great point and a great question. So at the end of every chapter of most of my books there's thought questions, action items, something like that, but I wouldn't exactly call it a workbook, it's maybe two or three questions at the end to get people moving. That said, workbooks are incredibly valuable. You can actually charge more for a workbook with less words in it than you can for a book book with more words in it, right? So if you wanna do a hybrid of those
I was gonna say does it make sense to have like an accompanying workbook?
You can totally do that, so if you wanna put together a book that's easy to read on something like a Kindle, which is something that I would tend to recommend, especially if your goal is meeting new people and getting that extra distribution, having something easy to read on Kindle is probably the best way to do that and that means that's a pretty straightforward book. But then you could have an accompanying workbook that you sell through your website, maybe you sell it through Amazon at well, you could get it printed, you could have it digitally available, it could be even like an accompanying video course. That's a great way to look at it, it's a great way to make some more money, too, and it gives people something else to look forward to. You put something in the back of your book that says if you want the actions on this, go here, you could create like an opt-in incentive that's one pager and then you can upsell them the book, like there's so many different options, so I highly recommend doing some sort of workbook option with that and you know, you can put images even in Kindle books, too, so if you wanna take a photograph of some of your most, thank you notes that have gotten the best results or mailings that have gotten the best results. You can totally do that, I'll show you how to put it, it's so easy.
It's so easy
It's so easy, it's so easy.
But yeah, in terms of a workbook I think I would maybe
I love it as a video course or an accompanying style, well if you really want the training on this or you want me to speak to your board directly, just put me in the room with you and your board.
Books are sales items just like Charlie said, right, and so you can include sales material in your book as a way of, when somebody finishes a book, what do they wanna do? Find out more
Right, that is our natural inclination when you finish a book that you love.
Especially that short style book.
Yeah, exactly you want to find out what the next step is. If the next step is purchasing a workbook or signing up for more information, booking you to speak, getting on the phone with you, make sure you include that call to action at the back of the book.
Oh, I didn't even think about that.
Wonderful, all the CTAs at the back of the book, I love that.
Yeah, any other questions?
No, I think this is amazing and I can't wait to get started.
Yeah, you are totally set up for success. Do you guys have any questions? Before we move onto step two? No, you guys are like on the ball. Alright
I have a comment.
When you were speaking, Shannon, and you started to tell your story, my whole body was covered in goosebumps, and I mean we can fake a lot of things, but we can't fake goosebumps and it was just so powerful and that deep reminder as I'm coming to my own process that it's about initiating and awakening that inner feeling of what is most important to us and that story was, I just wanna reinforce that, it was,
Yeah, I always like to say that, and I didn't come up with this, but nothing happens until somebody feels something, or nobody does anything until somebody feels something, but I do have to say too of course if it's about handwritten notes, everyone that buys the book, even if it's digital, gets a handwritten note in the mail,
Excellent, awesome. Alright, well step two is gonna be all about how to write your book as fast as possible so we're gonna be taking those outlines, those table of contents that you created in this step and we're gonna be applying them to content that you already have, looking at how to fill in the gaps and starting to make this thing come together already in step two, sound good?
Alright, that's what we'll do when we come back.