Saying “we exist” is not fundraising

How often do you see a message from a nonprofit — often a billboard, transit ad, or print ad — that consists of the following:


  • The organization’s logo and tagline.
  • A stock photo of happy people. They look like random happy people, but I think they’re usually meant to stand for the people the organization helps. Happy because whatever problem they had has been solved, thanks to the organization.
  • Contact information: URL, phone, address.

And that’s it.

It’s surprisingly frequent. And almost completely ineffective.

Proclaiming your existence is not fundraising.

It’s also not marketing, advertising, or branding.

It accomplishes almost nothing.

To raise funds, you need to make a clear and compelling call to action. Even to do something as vague as captures anyone’s attention or “raise awareness,” you still have to make a promise, be remarkable, or otherwise enter the audience’s world.

Just saying you exist does none of that. Don’t do it. Even if the media space is donated.


Comments

4 responses to “Saying “we exist” is not fundraising”

  1. Good point. You need to answer the question “So what?” when you strive to reach out to people in the community.

  2. Good point. You need to answer the question “So what?” when you strive to reach out to people in the community.

  3. Joe Fay Avatar

    The non-profit sector continues to confuse awareness with relevance and with a sale. We also delude ourselves imagining that people will sustain top-of-mind awareness of our cause/issue/brand when, in fact, most people rarely think about the sector or any of us individually. They have lots on their minds, and that’s just reality.
    Awareness among the target demographic from whom you are seeking donations or to whom you are providing services is useful, if you clearly differentiate your brand/case for support from others and if you ask for the sale (whether it’s a donation or an offer of service). This is not rocket science.

  4. Joe Fay Avatar

    The non-profit sector continues to confuse awareness with relevance and with a sale. We also delude ourselves imagining that people will sustain top-of-mind awareness of our cause/issue/brand when, in fact, most people rarely think about the sector or any of us individually. They have lots on their minds, and that’s just reality.
    Awareness among the target demographic from whom you are seeking donations or to whom you are providing services is useful, if you clearly differentiate your brand/case for support from others and if you ask for the sale (whether it’s a donation or an offer of service). This is not rocket science.

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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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