The first (and second, and third) lesson in fundraising

At SOFII, a new fundraising writer describes a moment of discovery: The first big lesson in fundraising copy. It’s kind of like watching one of those fast-motion films of a flower blossoming:

I had felt like I had to write something that had never been said before to bring a fresh new voice to the company. I was terrified of not being original. In fact, I had refused to even look at the material my co-workers had written because I was scared I’d inadvertently copy their style.

That’s an important lesson. And it’s part of a larger lesson that all fundraisers (not just writers) need to learn: It’s not about you.

Just as a new writer can get all tangled up in attempts to write something totally amazing that really displays their unique voice, fundraisers make similar mistakes:


  • They try to make their fundraising messaging all about how amazing their organization is. What they should be doing is make it all about how their organization is a perfect partner for the amazing donor.
  • They try to use their fundraising as an educational medium to make their donors into better people who think more like they do.
  • They try to make their fundraising esthetically pleasing (to themselves).
  • They try to create fundraising that they believe they would respond to. This is the biggest and most common killer of all. If you aim your messaging at yourself, you will miss your donors.

Fundraising: It’s not about you. This is a lesson that comes early in the career of successful fundraisers. Early and often.


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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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About the blogger

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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