Fundraising when times are tough

Check out the first few paragraphs of this fundraising appeal, written by Sean Triner for the Starlight Children’s Foundation of Australia:

This is the most important letter I have ever written.

Starlight is facing an unprecedented financial crisis which is forcing me and my team to make decisions I never imagined we would face just twelve months ago. Decisions that will impact the lives of thousands of sick Australian children this year.

Even when I wrote to supporters at the end of March, I was not sure what action we would need to take to keep the essential core of Starlight’s work going. I knew I might have to cut services, but things are tougher than I imagined.

Without your help, the cuts I will be forced to make will need to be even more drastic than they are already.

If you can’t — or are not allowed to — write a letter like this, you aren’t really in the fundraising profession.

The sad truth is, many — maybe most — organizations would never let this letter go out. They’d dislike the urgent tone. The open admission of trouble would give them the willies. For many, this would violate the dictates of the brand guidelines, which mandate a sunny, hopeful tone at all times.

And that’s too bad, because donors flock to support organizations that come to them with messages like this. Because donors really care about the organizations they support. And they want to make a meaningful difference. They’re thrilled and honored to be part of a rescue.

You should never say you’re in an “unprecedented financial crisis” unless you really are. And that means (I hope) that letters like this are rare. But when times are hard (as they have been for many organizations the last few years), you owe it to your donors to be frank and realistic with them.

That’s what real fundraisers do.

You can read more about the background of this letter at SOFII: How I wrote it — the Starlight Children’s Foundation emergency appeal, and even download the whole thing, which I urge you to do.


Comments

2 responses to “Fundraising when times are tough”

  1. True, however, donors also don’t want to give to a “sinking ship”. Letters like this must convey why and how they will recover from challenging times and emerge stronger than before. Also, explain why they are in this situation to begin with – other than just “hard times”.
    How did the appeal do compared with other appeals? What was their follow up to donors to this campaign?

  2. True, however, donors also don’t want to give to a “sinking ship”. Letters like this must convey why and how they will recover from challenging times and emerge stronger than before. Also, explain why they are in this situation to begin with – other than just “hard times”.
    How did the appeal do compared with other appeals? What was their follow up to donors to this campaign?

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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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