Nathaniel Ward

In fundraising, ‘what works is, quite simply, what works’

Email fundraising appeals may come across as shrill, oddball, or corny. They often are. Deliberately.

As Eric Josephsen explains, the goal of a fundraising appeal isn’t to please pundits or win design awards:

As hard as I work to create a beautiful product for my clients, that’s not what email fundraising is ultimately about. It’s about getting as many dollars in the door as possible. At the end of the day, whatever it takes to accomplish that goal is what must be done.

The frequency and aggressiveness of political emails fundraising emails is dictated in part by a campaign’s short time horizons. A campaign generally aims to maximize revenue in the short run, before the election, which can lead to more aggressive churn-and-burn tactics. A charity, by contrast, typically aims to build relationships and maximize long-term value over several years.

Josephsen adds that there’s a method behind the tactics used in email fundraising:

In many respects, email fundraising grew out of the political direct mail industry, which established many of the common testing methodologies and creative best practices used in both political and commercial direct mail to this day.

But with the instant results provided by digital communication, political email marketers now also have access to the same analytics and testing tools used by clickbait giants like Upworthy, Amazon, BuzzFeed, and, yes, Gawker.

Online marketers can and should let data make the decisions. Anything else is a disservice to the organization they’re working for. As Josephsen says, “what works is, quite simply, what works.”

By Nathaniel Ward on


Why you need a book club at work →

A lot of office culture today emphasizes productivity. But learning remains essential, and often gets left behind. Who has the time?

Dmitry Koltunov makes the case for making time through a formal office book club:

Sometimes you need to slow down to speed up. To grow ALICE from three of us to 30 people, and to get through the early stage hurdles, we had to find a way to prioritize learning as a team. So we started an office bookclub. No other tradition has had more of a positive impact on our culture, our processes and our product.

By Nathaniel Ward on



How to hire →

Henry Ward (no relation) explains his principles for hiring an excellent team:

  1. Hire for Strength vs Lack of Weakness
  2. Hire for Trajectory vs Experience
  3. Hire Doers vs Tellers
  4. Hire Learners vs Experts
  5. Hire Different vs Similar
  6. Always pass on ego

To find excellent employees, you have to take risks, he argues. “Do not be afraid of hiring False Positives. Give people chances. Be afraid of missing the 20x employee.”

His critique of Built to Last and corporate culture is also on point.

By Nathaniel Ward on


The website obesity crisis →

Maciej Cegłowski says websites have become too bloated:

The problem with picking any particular size as a threshold is that it encourages us to define deviancy down. Today’s egregiously bloated site becomes tomorrow’s typical page, and next year’s elegantly slim design.

I would like to anchor the discussion in something more timeless.

To repeat a suggestion I made on Twitter, I contend that text-based websites should not exceed in size the major works of Russian literature.

The whole thing is brilliant.

By Nathaniel Ward on