Bragging is not fundraising

Here’s the back of a 6″ x 9″ envelope from Uncle Maynard’s Treasure Trove of Direct Mail Knowledge:

BraggingOE

I’ve no reason to doubt that this is a good expression of what this Christian teaching ministry does. But as far as fundraising goes, it misses the point entirely.

It’s a common fundraising mistake. The strategy seems to be something like this:

If we can make people see how excellent we are, they’ll give.

That’s not fundraising. It’s just bragging.

The correct strategy for successful fundraising is this:

If we can show people how our mission is a part of their mission, they’ll give.

Your excellence is not the reason donors give. They give because they have a mission in life (probably more than one mission), and they come to believe that you can help them accomplish it.

Of course, they have to believe in your excellence in order to let you onto their personal bandwagon. But that’s not the main point.

Instead of bragging, you should have a clear call to action for the donor: Here’s what you can do!

The first step for effective fundraising is to understand what they call to action is for your donors. Then you make the call and make the case.

You don’t need to brag.


Comments

6 responses to “Bragging is not fundraising”

  1. Marilyn Kok Avatar
    Marilyn Kok

    It seems to me this message is doing precisely what you say it should do: showing people how the organization’s mission is also the prospective donor’s mission. Notice that the massage doesn’t say, “For forty years, WE HAVE been helping people grow in their knowledge of God and His holiness.” Instead the message states in general terms what is probably the targeted donors’ own mission (helping people grow…), and then reminds donors that the organization has had that same mission for a long time. Could they have done better? Probably–but this statement resonates with people who are passionate about that same goal. The appeal does need a call to action, but since it’s probably in the letter, I suspect the appeal worked very well for the organization.

  2. Marilyn Kok Avatar
    Marilyn Kok

    It seems to me this message is doing precisely what you say it should do: showing people how the organization’s mission is also the prospective donor’s mission. Notice that the massage doesn’t say, “For forty years, WE HAVE been helping people grow in their knowledge of God and His holiness.” Instead the message states in general terms what is probably the targeted donors’ own mission (helping people grow…), and then reminds donors that the organization has had that same mission for a long time. Could they have done better? Probably–but this statement resonates with people who are passionate about that same goal. The appeal does need a call to action, but since it’s probably in the letter, I suspect the appeal worked very well for the organization.

  3. I agree that it’s important to take the reader/prospective donor on their own journey rather than trying to compel them to join ours. We must SHOW them the values we enact; if those values match theirs, then it’s a great match!
    Sadly, I often find it’s the CEOs who change fundraising copy to tout the organization’s excellence. It’s their way of showing their boards what a great job they’re doing. It stokes their own ego and serves their own best interests. It’s very difficult to tell you boss their wrong.

  4. I agree that it’s important to take the reader/prospective donor on their own journey rather than trying to compel them to join ours. We must SHOW them the values we enact; if those values match theirs, then it’s a great match!
    Sadly, I often find it’s the CEOs who change fundraising copy to tout the organization’s excellence. It’s their way of showing their boards what a great job they’re doing. It stokes their own ego and serves their own best interests. It’s very difficult to tell you boss their wrong.

  5. While I have other problems with this back-of-the-envelope message (formatting issues, for one – either punctuate it or center the text!), I think I agree with the first commenter. This message, given its limited scope (back of envelope attention-grabber) seems to me to be saying, “hey, we probably have a mission you share, and we have decades of experience in it which is of value” What do you suggest for this message specifically that would add an extra call to an action-type of directive you suggest? Maybe something like, adding the words ” – come grow with us!” at the end?

  6. While I have other problems with this back-of-the-envelope message (formatting issues, for one – either punctuate it or center the text!), I think I agree with the first commenter. This message, given its limited scope (back of envelope attention-grabber) seems to me to be saying, “hey, we probably have a mission you share, and we have decades of experience in it which is of value” What do you suggest for this message specifically that would add an extra call to an action-type of directive you suggest? Maybe something like, adding the words ” – come grow with us!” at the end?

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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.