Stop blaming the economy — maybe it’s just YOU

By now you’ve seen the Giving USA report on US charitable giving in 2014: It was up 7.1% to $358.38 billion. That’s higher than the pre-recession level. In fact, the highest in the 60-year history of the report.

The recession is over.

But not to hear some fundraisers talk. They’re still blaming their poor results on the economy.

They might as well blame it on the dinosaurs.

The economy is not what’s keeping donors from responding. If you’re still suffering from poor fundraising results, it’s probably your fundraising practices that’s to blame.

And you can change that.

Here are the most common ways organizations are creating their own recessions:


  • Not spending enough. Your fundraising program will shrink if you’re not getting enough new donors to replace those you lose through attrition. Too many organizations have slashed their new donor acquisition programs. That often feels good at first for the bean-counters, because chopping high-cost and revenue-negative acquisition immediately helps the bottom line. But it assures an extended and accelerating downward spiral for years to come.
  • Not letting donors in on the action. Going to donors with a general and open-ended propositions of support (“support us”) is increasingly the path to bad results. Success requires specific, interesting, motivating calls to action that give donors a clear sense of what their giving accomplishes.
  • Bragging instead of fundraising. Fundraising that’s all about how awesome your organization is in order to wow donors into giving is another fading approach. Instead, show them how what you do aids their awesomeness.
  • Fundcrushing instead of fundraising. Donors don’t give because the your cause is Big and/or Important. In fact, they’re less likely to give when you try to impress them with big numbers. They give because they see the opportunity to make a difference.
  • Not showing donors they matter. Once donors give, you must show them how effective their giving was. They need to see that they made a good decision, and that the promise you made when you asked is fulfilled. The way to do that is send them a regular newsletter that’s not full of bragging and news about your organization, but of stories of success and transformation clearly tied to your donors’ generosity. Organizations that fail to do that suffer higher donor attrition than those that do.


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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.