Are you fundraising from the wrong donors?

One way to really screw up your fundraising is to make bad assumptions about your donors. The most common way we do this is to assume donors are (or should be) exactly like us.

Another common way we make incorrect assumptions about donors is to think all of them are just like the small number of donors we interact with personally. This error is outlined at PhilanTopic, at Blinded By the ‘Sophisticated Donor’?

The donors you most likely talk with face-to-face are major donors and institutional donors. What they know, and what they want, are very different from the large mass of more typical donors:

Not everyone is a “sophisticated” donor. Not everyone is a professional fundraiser or works for a foundation or corporate giving program. In fact, very few people do. And people … seldom give to a charitable cause or organization because they’re looking to achieve impact or based on a chart of performance metrics; they give because it makes them feel good, or because it’s a worthy cause, or because, like me, they want to help a friend.

I’ve rarely seen a fundraising message that failed because it was too simple.

I’ve seen hundreds of fundraising messages that failed because they were too complicated.

We are constantly tempted to fundraising from ourselves or our friends — or those atypical donors we know and like best. Complexity and sophistication do not translate well to normal donors.


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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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