Giving is about feeling good

Lori Jacobwith’s blog reports on a comment Seth Godin made about fundraising: Feeling good is what nonprofits sell.

His comment was helpful. Here’s part of it:

Transactions pull people apart. Gifts pull people together. What may hold a staff back is the inability to relate authentically to the person who gets asked for money every day. The act of giving adds meaning to our work. And many social profit CEOs don’t often GIVE the investor or potential investor a way to feel good.

In fact, a lot of people in nonprofits assume giving feels bad! So they make one of two errors:


  1. They create fundraising messages that artificially (and pointlessly) try to make people feel good by never mentioning there’s a problem or need or urgency of any kind. This, of course, doesn’t work. Donors just don’t respond to being told they aren’t needed.
  2. They just go for the bad feeling. They help create the impression that everything sucks all the time. All is dark, and you’d better give right now. You can raise money with this approach. But you tend to pay for it in lower retention as donors get the impression that giving doesn’t really make a difference.

If you remember what Seth says — giving brings us together, makes us feel good — you’re free to do fundraising right:


  • You respect donors enough to let them know when things are tough, when their giving could make the difference between failure and success.
  • You also remember to give the donors hope. You tell them their investments in you pay off in a better world.
  • When the news is bad, you share the bad news. But you also share the good news.
  • And you never forget that fundraising is not about you: It’s about them.


Comments

4 responses to “Giving is about feeling good”

  1. Tom Ahern Avatar

    I keep nearby a Chicago Tribune article from 2008 (?) that reported on some new findings in neuroscience: when you make a gift, a pleasure center in your brain fires up. I.e., we are naturally, evolutionarily philanthropic because, yes, it feels good to give. Not in theory; in verifiable fact, in the laboratory. With that in mind, I think nonprofits could profitably revisit their donor communications and ask this question: “How are we stripping the fun out of this?”

  2. Tom Ahern Avatar

    I keep nearby a Chicago Tribune article from 2008 (?) that reported on some new findings in neuroscience: when you make a gift, a pleasure center in your brain fires up. I.e., we are naturally, evolutionarily philanthropic because, yes, it feels good to give. Not in theory; in verifiable fact, in the laboratory. With that in mind, I think nonprofits could profitably revisit their donor communications and ask this question: “How are we stripping the fun out of this?”

  3. Jeff, Thanks for the mention of my recent post in your post!
    One of the tools I use to help staff & board members stay in the mode of allowing donors to feel something is to ask: “how does money bring joy at your organization?” When faced with this question staff and board members find it easier to create a connection in their communication that allows their supporters to “feel” how their dollars are making a difference.

  4. Jeff, Thanks for the mention of my recent post in your post!
    One of the tools I use to help staff & board members stay in the mode of allowing donors to feel something is to ask: “how does money bring joy at your organization?” When faced with this question staff and board members find it easier to create a connection in their communication that allows their supporters to “feel” how their dollars are making a difference.

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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