Are you fundraising from donors?

All the research and experience told us that these particular donors in this particular situation were most likely to give around $25.

But the development director wanted more. He ignored the facts and asked for $35.

What happened?

Almost nothing.

He asked for more than they were likely to give, so they didn’t act. The campaign failed miserably.

If you want to succeed at fundraising, you have to start with donors’ needs, not your own needs. That applies not only to ask amounts, but to offers, design, story, and all content.

Ben Stroup’s blog says it well at Fundraising content begins with the donor:

Look at your content strategy. Does it reflect the needs, wants, and desires of your donors, or does it play perfectly into what’s best for you, your organization, and your cause? It’s amazing what you can learn about yourself when you take the time to listen to your own messages.

Too much fundraising these days is self-centered and brand-driven — not aimed at donors. I can understand the need to hone your message so it really feels good and accurate to inside audiences. But that’s an expensive choice, because it chases away donors.

Everybody knows that fundraising should be donor-focused. Not everyone is willing to actually make it so. When you do, you’ll reap the benefits.


Comments

4 responses to “Are you fundraising from donors?”

  1. Lynne Slightom Avatar
    Lynne Slightom

    Dear Ben and Jeff,
    I think I am missing something when it comes to this topic. But isn’t what the donor wants and the organization needs the same thing? Or at least I would hope so.
    I would love to see an example of each.
    Thanks so much for all you do!

  2. Lynne Slightom Avatar
    Lynne Slightom

    Dear Ben and Jeff,
    I think I am missing something when it comes to this topic. But isn’t what the donor wants and the organization needs the same thing? Or at least I would hope so.
    I would love to see an example of each.
    Thanks so much for all you do!

  3. JEFF—Thanks for pointing to my post.
    LYNNE—Your question “Isn’t what the donor wants and the organization needs the same thing?” is a valid question. There are always two competing realities between what the leader perceives as his or her greatest need and what the donor needs. These two realities are inherently at conflict with one another. That’s why it’s imperative to see the world through the eyes of the donor.
    Organizational leaders tend to lean on pragmatism and believe the donor shares the same assumptions they have about the problems, obstacles, and challenges they face. Not true. The donor always brings their own context to the table. If you want to “move” people to give, volunteer, and lead, then you must reach the donor where they are in the midst of their perceived greatest need, which may or may not be consistent with the perceived need of the organizational leader.
    One thing is for sure, trying to relate to the average donor in pragmatic terms almost never works.

  4. JEFF—Thanks for pointing to my post.
    LYNNE—Your question “Isn’t what the donor wants and the organization needs the same thing?” is a valid question. There are always two competing realities between what the leader perceives as his or her greatest need and what the donor needs. These two realities are inherently at conflict with one another. That’s why it’s imperative to see the world through the eyes of the donor.
    Organizational leaders tend to lean on pragmatism and believe the donor shares the same assumptions they have about the problems, obstacles, and challenges they face. Not true. The donor always brings their own context to the table. If you want to “move” people to give, volunteer, and lead, then you must reach the donor where they are in the midst of their perceived greatest need, which may or may not be consistent with the perceived need of the organizational leader.
    One thing is for sure, trying to relate to the average donor in pragmatic terms almost never works.

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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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