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Why An Annual Appeal Letter About Poop Wowed Me

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I fall in love easily with the surprising. And I am not alone. The human brain adores new information. When it runs across something interesting, your brain spurts dopamine, for goodness sake.

For those of you who do not know dopamine by reputation, it is called the brain’s “reward drug.” Pavlov’s dogs had salivation bells. Humans have dopamine. I like dopamine. You like dopamine. We all scream … for dope-ameen!

Dopamine rewards us. It makes us happy! And eager!

Now for something completely different

When Laura Alexander, co-pillar of a rapidly growing fundraising consultancy in Tucson, Arizona, told me about the “poop” annual appeal she’d written, I begged her shamelessly, with all the cunning I had, to let me share it with you.

“Laura, I think I see a a little mud on your left front whitewall. Do you mind if I clean it off with this heirloom linen handkerchief left to me by my sainted great-grandmother?”

Laura graciously said yes, for the benefit of all charity-kind – as did her wonderful, risk-taking client, the Watershed Management Group.

And so without further adieu, for your entertainment: The “poop letter:”

November 14, 2012 «Postal_Greeting»

Did you know that one of the most wasteful things you can do with water is poop in it?

Toilet flushing not only wastes more water than any other household activity (including using your washing machine), it also wastes another useful natural resource: your poop.

Composted human waste (“humanure”) is rich in nutrients and supports fertile, healthy soil.

That’s why Watershed Management Group is developing and promoting an inexpensive, safe and practical composting toilet that can be built and installed by any homeowner.

We’ve even gotten a permit from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality to pilot, test and research the use of composting toilets in urban Tucson.

We’re also training a group of “Soil Stewards” who are learning to take responsibility for the health of their soil – possibly the most overlooked resource in the watershed.

That’s the kind of on-the-ground, critical thinking and innovation you’ve come to expect from WMG – but we can’t do it without you.

As a WMG supporter — if you are the kind of person who likes simple, affordable, sustainable, community-based solutions to the challenges facing our local and international communities — please, make a gift to Watershed Management Group today!

Thank you.

Lisa Shipek, Executive Director

P.S. Get the straight poop on composting toilets and even learn how to build one at

Did it work?

Laura doesn’t know yet. Anyway, that’s not the point.

The point is: charities have become too timid.

It wasn’t always that way. Consider this 1950s Oxfam ad. This ad makes two clear and compelling offers:

  1. Help Relieve Great Suffering
  2. Help a Stricken Family.

Zero confusion. Zero jargon. Total emotion. And it’s all about values: “Are you so callous you can ignore this?” is the rumbling question between the lines.

That’s what successful fundraising does: plug into donors’ pre-existing values.

General Stonewall Jackson, conspicuously (though not universally) successful on the battlefield, advised, “Never take counsel of your fears.” It is sound free advice from history for today’s timid boards and CEOs and fundraisers.

This post originally appeared in the Ahern Donor Communications Newsletter

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