Smart fundraising lets donors direct their money where they want it

I don’t like it, so my donors shouldn’t like it either!

That’s how I read this interesting post at 101fundraising: Why I Don’t Donate To Charity:Water.

You see, Charity:Water offers donors what they call the “100% model”: they guarantee that 100% of each donation goes “straight to the field.” A different set of donors is covering the “overhead.”

And that’s wicked:

… the 100% Model is damaging to nearly every other charity because it gives the public unrealistic expectations. It implies that ‘100% to the field’ is desirable, truthful and even possible. It’s not.

First, it’s entirely possible for the 100% model to be 100% truthful. It’s only a matter of diligent accounting.

Donors (most of them, anyway) love not paying for overhead. Can you blame them? Who wouldn’t rather their hard-earned cash go to feed hungry puppies rather than pay for postage on direct mail or the electricity bill at the head office?

Nonprofit insiders understand that “overhead” is no less important than the field.

But that is no reason at all to insist that we press donors into our mental mold so they think about it the way we do. First off, that’s not possible. Second, we have no business wasting our resources trying.

Our job as fundraisers is to put powerful, exciting, motivating fundraising offers before donors and give them the opportunity to change the world on their terms. The 100% model can be a part of that.

If you can manage it, you should try it.

Most charities have the formula exactly backward: foundations, and other major funders get the joy of directing their funds specifically where they want their funds to go. These high-end donors, with whom we engage in complex and left-brained conversations about the work, get all the fun of sending their money where it feels good to send it.

General donors — people with whom we only have brief contact through bulk-postage mail, mostly-ignored email, and other casual-contact media — they have no choice but give unrestricted funds.

We should turn that around, and the 100% model is one way to do that.

We may not like the thinking, and that’s our privilege as human beings with minds. But we have no call and little ability to make donors think our way.


Comments

6 responses to “Smart fundraising lets donors direct their money where they want it”

  1. Quick question, and maybe I’m missing it- but if we switch to a 100% model, how do we cover overhead? Wouldn’t everyone choose for their funds to go to the field? Would we solicit individual donors to cover what “the general donor” doesn’t want to?

  2. Quick question, and maybe I’m missing it- but if we switch to a 100% model, how do we cover overhead? Wouldn’t everyone choose for their funds to go to the field? Would we solicit individual donors to cover what “the general donor” doesn’t want to?

  3. Jules Brown Avatar
    Jules Brown

    Agreed. 100%.

  4. Jules Brown Avatar
    Jules Brown

    Agreed. 100%.

  5. I agree that the donor should be able to support a specific program or campaign. I disagree that they should be freed from paying for the nuts and bolts of the organization that make the programs possible. Maybe when the day comes that government, foundation, and corporate money goes mainly to operational costs, we can ask donors for 100% “to the field.” I don’t expect to live long enough to see that happen!

  6. I agree that the donor should be able to support a specific program or campaign. I disagree that they should be freed from paying for the nuts and bolts of the organization that make the programs possible. Maybe when the day comes that government, foundation, and corporate money goes mainly to operational costs, we can ask donors for 100% “to the field.” I don’t expect to live long enough to see that happen!

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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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