Does your fundraising lean left or right?

by guest blogger George Crankovic

Fundraisers look at donors’ age, income, religious beliefs, past giving, and so on, to craft appeals. Now there’s one more element to add to the list, and this one could trump them all.

It’s your donors’ political leanings. Whether a donor is liberal or conservative will influence how she reacts to your messaging, according to a fascinating study titled
How Political Identity and Charity Positioning Increase Donations

Liberals tend to respond to themes focusing on:


  • Caring, nurturing, and protecting the vulnerable
  • Fairness, safeguarding rights, and justice

Conservatives, on the other hand, tend to be drawn more to themes conveying:


  • Patriotism and self-sacrifice for the group
  • Respect for authority and leadership
  • Moral guidelines restricting behavior

Okay, here’s the quiz. The study describes an example in which donors are shown two descriptions of a nonprofit — Rebuilding American — and asked to decide whether they’d give.

Guess how donors responded to the following descriptions:


  • In Description A, the charity talks about “the importance of a healthy home where families can live together” and goes on to explain that it provides “rehabilitation services to working families who are trying to develop themselves to follow American traditions and support their communities.”
  • In Description B, the charity talks about how “every person deserves the protection of a home” and explains how the charity provides “free critical repairs to the homes of low income Americans as well as financial support to protect low income families who are susceptible to home loss. This ensures that every individual has the right to a home.”

Spoiler alert — here’s the answer.

Description A, with its mention of “working families,” “rehabilitation,” and “American traditions” appealed more to conservatives. You can see how it conveys the ideas of hard work, respect for authority, and discipline. Description B appealed to liberals. It talks about protecting vulnerable people “susceptible to home loss” because “every individual has the right to a home.”

This is powerful. The charity is the same — only the framing of the messaging varies, and that makes all the difference. Of course, reframing won’t convince a Tea Party conservative to support Planned Parenthood. But that’s not the point.

You want a closer connection with your donors. By considering where they are on the political spectrum and addressing their core beliefs you can synch with them at a deeper level of shared moral values. The result is greater loyalty and retention. Why not give it a try?


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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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