Donors respond when they know they matter

Do you need your donors?

Then tell them so!

I know that sounds like relationship advice from a talk-show psychologist, but it needs to be said. So many fundraisers instead practice We Have It All Together fundraising: They believe that fundraising consists of showing donors how effective and successful they are, and invite donors to jump aboard the We Have It All Together Bandwagon.

No wonder so many donors think they aren’t important to the organizations they support. We Have It All Together Fundraising inadvertently tells them things are fine without them.

Unless you have a funding structure that makes donors unnecessary, tell them you need them. If you need them urgently, if you need them to keep the doors open, if programs would be cut without them — don’t hide it. Be honest, open, and urgent. Practice “You Matter a Lot” Fundraising.

It makes some in nonprofits uncomfortable to admit their dependence on donors. They think it reflects poorly on their management. But donors want to be wanted.

Years of experience, including head-to-head message testing, tells me this: An appeal that says, We may have to cut programs unless people like you give outperforms an optimistic things are great, please join us message by dramatic margins.

So put We Have It All Together Fundraising to rest and go out there with some You Matter a Lot Fundraising that tells your donors you really need them!


Comments

6 responses to “Donors respond when they know they matter”

  1. Wow! Watch our using this line, Jeff.
    “We may have to cut programs unless people like you give.”
    Donors want to be wanted but don’t want to be blackmailed!
    Such things can only be said once in a great while. no matter how bleak things look.
    Thanks for your posts!

  2. Wow! Watch our using this line, Jeff.
    “We may have to cut programs unless people like you give.”
    Donors want to be wanted but don’t want to be blackmailed!
    Such things can only be said once in a great while. no matter how bleak things look.
    Thanks for your posts!

  3. And a big part of avoiding the happy talk messages is changing the way we measure an organization’s success. Needing donors is NOT a problem to be solved. Donors are intrinsic to our work. Needing donations is not a sign of mismanagement – it’s an invitation to others to join the cause.
    It’s not very motivating to say “send some money. Eh, we don’t really need it, but it’d be nice.”

  4. And a big part of avoiding the happy talk messages is changing the way we measure an organization’s success. Needing donors is NOT a problem to be solved. Donors are intrinsic to our work. Needing donations is not a sign of mismanagement – it’s an invitation to others to join the cause.
    It’s not very motivating to say “send some money. Eh, we don’t really need it, but it’d be nice.”

  5. Anonymous Fundraiser Avatar
    Anonymous Fundraiser

    I sat on the Board of a nonprofit that was selected as a finalist for an extremely large contribution. I needed to make a pitch as to why our organization needed the funds and what it would be used for, so I contacted the development director for assistance. They advised that it would just go to general programming. So I asked, “So… Programs that may possibly go away if there isn’t funding?” “No! Don’t say that! We’re doing fine, we’ll always have those programs.” “People aren’t going to give you a 5-figure donation if you don’t NEED it.” “Yes they will.” Yeah, can’t imagine why they are struggling to bring in new revenue. As a development director myself, I can’t imagine communicating that to our supporters.

  6. Anonymous Fundraiser Avatar
    Anonymous Fundraiser

    I sat on the Board of a nonprofit that was selected as a finalist for an extremely large contribution. I needed to make a pitch as to why our organization needed the funds and what it would be used for, so I contacted the development director for assistance. They advised that it would just go to general programming. So I asked, “So… Programs that may possibly go away if there isn’t funding?” “No! Don’t say that! We’re doing fine, we’ll always have those programs.” “People aren’t going to give you a 5-figure donation if you don’t NEED it.” “Yes they will.” Yeah, can’t imagine why they are struggling to bring in new revenue. As a development director myself, I can’t imagine communicating that to our supporters.

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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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