The power of boring fundraising to not raise funds

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Can you bore donors into giving?

I think I found someone who tried in Uncle Maynard’s Treasure Trove of Direct Mail Knowledge.

Hospice is not an easy sell for fundraising — believe me, I have inside knowledge on that. It’s not dramatic. Hospice is more like an anti-drama system that’s geared to make death quiet, peaceful, and downright boring. Lives are not saved. (Actually, sometimes they are, but that’s not the purpose.) The money goes largely to high-price things like doctors, nurses, and social workers. Most of the real action is simply people talking to other people — but it’s people with very specific and much-needed knowledge talking to people with very specific needs.

You probably have to have personal experience with a hospice to really know what it is, much less grasp its importance as a cause.

If hospice is a tough sell, the cause of advocating and supporting hospice has got to be off-the-charts difficult.

That’s what this letter from the Hospice Education Institute is trying to do.

I’m including the full letter here because it’s basically a clinic on getting fundraising wrong. This is not to ridicule HEI (if anyone from HEI ever reads this, feel free to contact me; I’d love to help you out). This is interesting only because it’s not unique. It makes the same mistakes that a lot of fundraisers make.

HEIletter-1

HEIletter-2

The first 6 paragraphs are the philosophy, purpose, and general need for hospice, summed up with the odd and puzzling pronouncement about hospice should be in the 21st century. That’s not fundraising. Fundraising is about action.

The next 7 paragraphs tell what HEI does. Closer, but it’s still not fundraising. Fundraising is about what the donor can do.

Finally, in the 14th paragraph, just three from the end, it addresses the reader with a call to action: “We need your support for the work we do.” Unfortunately, it immediately undercuts itself by making the call to action abstract: speak out loud and clear.

Finally, in the last paragraph, it gets to an ask for funds, which I assume was the whole reason for writing in the first place: “Your gift, whatever you can afford, will greatly help us.”

This letter is like that boring guy at the party who corners you and talks about himself. That’s not how you make friends. It’s boring and it’s annoying. It’s also not how you raise funds. For the same reasons.

I urge you to keep this letter. Because you may be tempted to do fundraising like this. Don’t let it happen to you!

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2 responses to “The power of boring fundraising to not raise funds”

  1. This is a superlative analysis of why mission alone does not assure giving.

  2. This is a superlative analysis of why mission alone does not assure giving.

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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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