Dr. Russell James

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Dr. James explains what happens when fundraising metrics go bad

Fightin’ words Want to start a fight in a fundraising comment section? That’s easy. Start talking metrics. Opinions are often passionate. And they often conflict…. Read More


What Dr. James means when he recommends you harness the power of storytelling in major gifts fundraising

Monomyth steps The “one big thing” in fundraising is always the same: Advance the donor’s hero story. The universal hero story, called the monomyth, includes… Read More


Why public gratitude and admiration are key to the donor’s hero story

Monomyth ending The universal hero story (monomyth) ends with the hero’s return. The hero returns to his original world. The return confirms his new heroic… Read More


How gratitude completes the donor hero story

“In myths the hero is the one who conquers the dragon, not the one who is devoured by it.” – Carl Jung[1] Monomyth resolution In… Read More


How blockbuster movies can help you make the perfect fundraising ask

Universal challenge Let’s go to the movies! And when we go, what will we see? If it’s a blockbuster, we’ll often see a similar underlying… Read More


How Fundraisers Can Reconcile the Competition that Exists Between Your Donors’ & Administrators’ Hero Stories

Story conflict Advance the donor’s hero story. In major gifts fundraising, this works. It works for the donor. The donor is the hero. It works… Read More


Why fundraisers feel stuck in the middle between Administrators and Donors

Hero story In the universal hero story, a guiding sage helps the hero. The sage Challenges the hero to begin the journey, Introduces the hero… Read More


How to be an authentic guiding sage for your donors

The guiding sage The hero’s journey is a universal story. In that universal story, the guiding sage plays a powerful archetypal role. This role can… Read More


How major gifts fundraisers should introduce themselves to donors

The universal hero story is attractive. This “monomyth” is “hard-wired into our psyches.”[1] In the donor’s hero story, the donor’s role as hero is compelling…. Read More


Why fundraisers who position themselves as a counselor and guiding sage for donors raise more money

Things look bleak. Fundraisers don’t stay. They don’t stay at the nonprofit. They don’t stay in the industry. They are stigmatized by outsiders. They are… Read More


This is the #1 driver of fundraiser turnover

Good and bad stories Stories are powerful. They can provide meaning and motivation. They can be a source of personal identity. For fundraising, stories are… Read More


Always Remember – What Matters Most Is the DONOR’s Hero Story, Not Yours

Philanthropy is powerful. It can do more for the donor than just consuming more stuff would do. It can provide personally meaningful impact. It can… Read More


Why you may need to reframe the donor’s hero story

Reframing the hero story The Hero is a high-ego character. It is at one extreme of the ego-social axis. For those at the opposite end,… Read More


How to be the Obi-Wan Kenobi of Fundraisers to Guide Your Donor’s Hero Journey

The monomyth The hero is a fundamental human archetype. Jung describes an archetype as, “a spiritual goal toward which the whole nature of man strives.”… Read More


Why fundraisers must understand the 6 common elements of every donor’s hero story

As fundraisers, what exactly do we have to offer donors? Their gift goes away. Even if we call it an “investment,” it doesn’t give them… Read More


How to make your fundraising ask more effective — according to research, not hearsay

Story review A story progresses through Backstory and setting These establish motivation from the main character’s original identity. The inciting incident This is the main… Read More


How to help your donors score a victory and make an impact

What’s it about? An effective fundraising story isn’t just a good story. It must do something. It must lead to a gift. This means the… Read More


3 Big Reasons Why An ‘Ask’ Is Mostly About Your Donor’s Hero Story (Not Your Organization’s)

The narrative arc Story moves through a narrative arc. This includes: Backstory and setting These establish motivation from the main character’s original identity. The inciting… Read More


The 3 Key Elements of a Good Fundraising Story

What’s it about? Many stories can be good stories. But a good fundraising story must do something specific. It must lead to a gift. This… Read More


How Restricted Gifts Can Actually Be a GOOD Thing — And Why You Should Embrace Them

Fundraising is story world Lab experiments, field experiments, and academic theory agree: Fundraising lives in “story world,” not “commerce world.” Social-emotional story is the engine… Read More


Why people who say your non-profit should operate like a for-profit are wrong

Giving is different from buying Charitable giving comes from “story world.” Effective fundraising story triggers visualization producing social emotion. This is the engine that drives… Read More


Why Simple Words Work When Telling a Fundraising Story

Use your words Story starts with words. Word choice matters. It matters for fundraising story. For example, Simple, conversational, family words work. They match the… Read More


5 Reasons Why You Should Focus Your Fundraising On Foundations, Funds, Trusts, and Endowments

Many fundraisers don’t understand the world of big philanthropy. Why not? Because they don’t understand wealth. They don’t understand charitable instruments. So, let’s start with… Read More


How to make sure the experience you deliver to donors makes their giving feel worthwhile

Charity managers’ perspective How should a gift be structured? For charity managers, the answer is easy. The donor should just write a check. Write it… Read More


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