Steps to an awesome fundraising brand

Maybe you’ve looked at the work of charity:water and felt that twinge of jealousy. Why can’t my organization be like that?

There are some painfully realistic answers to that question at re:charity: 7 Reasons Why Your Nonprofit’s Brand Will Never Be As Awesome As charity:water.


  1. Your mission kind of sucks.
  2. You don’t care enough about your donors.
  3. You’re not pretty enough.
  4. You’re spread to thin.
  5. You need to grow a pair.
  6. You break your promises.
  7. You don’t have a good reason why.

These things are important. (Except, in my experience, #3. I’ve seen plenty of fundraising with “ugly” design work spectacularly and even more very attractive design fall flat in the marketplace.)

It’s #2 that makes the most difference. Too many nonprofits think they can find a breakthrough to awesomeness by applying some kind of external force — usually new Shiny Object of technology.

Not all Shiny Objects are bad things. Some of them really can help you be more awesome.

But they only have a chance of working if you actually put donors first. And that’s true in whatever medium you’re in, including the Inky Old Boring Objects.

That means you must:


  • Put donors ahead of the taste and preferences of your executive director and board members.
  • Put donors ahead of the emotional needs of your staff.
  • Put donors ahead of what you wish they knew and understood and respond to.

Doing this will make your fundraising:


  • Simpler
  • More obvious
  • More specific
  • More concrete
  • More emotional
  • Usually more old-fashioned

The more focused you are on your donor, the cooler and more relevant ideas you’ll have. And the more awesome you’ll be.

And the more money you’ll raise.

Tomorrow: 3 ways you could be like charity:water.


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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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