Passing the 3-second test

Notably re-quotable

How the pandemic deeply dented one sector

“Two years after the COVID-19 pandemic shook the Massachusetts’ arts and culture sector to its core, more than 1,000 cultural organizations surveyed throughout the state have lost $781 million in revenue, according to data collected and published by the Mass Cultural Council.” ~ Boston Globe, reporting April 26, 2022

File under: Salutations and closings, both fab ways to connect

This email exchange was just too interesting not to share with you, dear reader....

The 3-Second Test

First, the fab nonprofit featured in this issue: Crayons to Computers, founded 25 years ago in Cincinnati


The Crayons to Computers back-story, ripped with sweet reverence from their home page:

In 1996, members of Leadership Cincinnati Class XIX visited Woodward High School for Education Day. There they saw a teacher selling pencils to her students before math class could begin. This observation prompted the discovery that teachers routinely spend money from their own pocket to provide basic supplies and more for their students and classrooms. ¶ This defining moment ultimately led members of the class to create a business plan and to launch Crayons to Computers in 1997.

So, anyhoo, I get this email from Betsy Wilson, DoD, at Crayons to Computers. Her subject line?

“We’re stumped and asking for free advice!”

Then she tossed in some flattery (which will, according to neuroscience, work pretty much every time, with everyone; good on you, Betsy) and explained the Crayons to Computers dilemma:

We are celebrating the organization’s 25th Anniversary with a Gala on June 4. We are working on the letter from our board chair and CEO for the program and are stumped on the salutation. I truly despise Dear Friends. Here are some other ideas we came up with:

Dear Friends,

Dear Fans of Crayons to Computers,

Dear Supporters of Teachers,

Dear SuperStar,

Dear Valedictorian,

Dear Loyal Supporter,

Dear Champions,

Dear Heroes,

To the Best of the Best,

To the Top of the Class,

To the Truest of True Believers,

Anyway, fooling around with Betsy’s question sounded like way more fun than plugging away on my other project du jour (the case for a national charity’s endowment; we’re in our 6th month of interviews and other due diligence … and it will be fab eventually, but, you know, baby steps….)

My quick response to her

What an interesting challenge, Betsy!!!

First, take some pressure off yourself: you simply cannot get this wrong. That’s clear from your attitude.

Second: this is where we apply the 3-second test. That test is based on some psychological research that found people either lean toward you or away … in a matter of seconds. It’s their gut speaking.

Which means, third: What can we say in the salutation that will be warm and wonderful and surprising and about “me, the supporter”?

Dear Difference-Maker,

Dear Extremely Wonderful Person,

Dear Rare Person Who Cared Enough to Act,

There are two places in a letter where you’ll have high readership: the salutation and the closing.

Make them both emotional and about the reader, not the .org.

With humble and incredible regards,


BTW, my dear readers: Crayons to Computers went with this salutation finally (and I … well, true confession … I am in love):

Dear Extremely Wonderful Difference-Maker!!



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Did you miss any crucial back issues of my how-to e-news?

Immediately available! Just GO here.

You’re still not pursuing monthly giving?

HERE. From the always amazing Erica Waasdorp: “Case Study: How a Small Charity Keeps Growing Its Monthly Donor Base.” Come on, people. This was the fundraising future 20 years ago.

How to turn a beneficiary interview into a story

HERE. I’ll let Julie and Brett Cooper cue up this wonderful 49-second video: “Our son Baye was once a beneficiary – at age 7, when he lived in an orphanage run by an American nonprofit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He has many stories to tell. But turning beneficiary stories into moving fundraising stories of need for an appeal letter is more challenging than it might at first seem.” They have a system, which they talk about in their latest e-newsletter. Subscribe free now. And enjoy Baye’s tale!

For your annually-updated understanding of digital-giving trends

The [free] 2022 M+R Benchmarks study has arrived

HERE. Click on “Journeys.” Then start scrolling. You will likely be surprised by what you learn … repeatedly.

3 taut new Ahern shows available pro bono

EMAIL me if you’re interested >>> @ a2bmail@aol.com. Here’s the back story: I’ve been distilling my popular “pay for” 1.5 hour webinars to fit shorter time frames. And I’ve been doing a ton of free presenting anyway, because of the pandemic. So…. [ 1 ] I did a 30-minute Return On Investment show for a city’s library-board development committee. We examined donor comms as a smart investment (rather than as a cost). Went well? After the Q&A, the attending board broke into applause. First time that’s ever happened; with boards, usually they’re yelling at me … and I’m yelling back. [ 2 ] For Nashville AFP, did an overview of case-for-support-making in 40 minutes. We saw the hybrid future: some of the people were there in the room; live, hugging, schmoozing, asking questions. The bulk of attendees, though, Zoomed in. [ 3 ] Then there’s the latest show, “Everything { I think } I know about successful donor communications crammed into 45 minutes” for CASA California. Interested? Wonderful, tho know: booking dates are limited.

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