Why donors get jaded, and how you can stop it

by guest blogger George Crankovic

The president of Haiti shocked everyone recently when he was speaking about the devastating 2010 earthquake that garnered worldwide sympathy. He said, Stop sending money, according to a recent report from NPR.

Haiti received a flood of funding after the earthquake — an eye-watering $9 billion.

But there are still some 350,000 people living in temporary camps three years later. What happened?

Well, some of the money got tied up in red tape, some got misallocated in uncoordinated projects, and, let’s be honest, some probably got skimmed off. But a big problem is that the money that did make it to the people in need in Haiti went to short-term relief: tarps, bandages, emergency food, and the like.

In truth, that short-term relief was the immediate need at the time. But that brings us to where we are today. The money’s been spent, and those temporary fixes like bandages and tarps have been used up or worn out.

And here’s the worst of it: Despite billions of dollars thrown at the problem, there hasn’t been enough real change visible to donors. We fundraisers routinely promise real change to our donors.

The Haiti situation highlights donors’ (and non-donors’) deepest suspicions about nonprofits — that charities have an insatiable appetite for money and will do anything to keep raising more and more of it, regardless of whether it’s doing any good.

Donors start feeling swindled, jaded, and finally, less generous.

We can’t expect donors to give endless amounts of money with no apparent outcome. But that’s often what happens. Lots of organizations are good at raising money by the bagful, but when it comes to relaying results — not so much.

Of course, in Haiti many more people beyond the unbelievable death toll of 316,000 would have died without assistance. Donors did save lives. But donors need to know that.

And the most meaningful way for them to know that is for us to tell them. That’s part of fundraising too. We have to report back diligently in newsletters, thank you letters, videos on charity websites, social media posts, PR efforts, and other means.

That way there’s a counterbalance when somebody says the money’s not doing any good. Because if donors aren’t sure they make a difference — even a tiny difference in a sea of trouble — they may just stop 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.