Have you seen “trapped in your own head” fundraising?

Everyone is sometimes trapped inside their own head. It’s a condition that blinds you to all perspectives other than your own. You think the way thing look to you is the way they look to everyone.

And it’s one of the most common causes of ineffective fundraising. The insidious thing about being trapped in your head is that you can’t see that you’re trapped.

I recently came across a piece of marketing that reminded me of some of trapped-in-the-head fundraising. It shows what can happen when you’re so trapped that you become unable to communicate clearly with other people.

It was on the desk in my room at a major national chain hotel. I think it was put there to encourage guests to recognize good work by hotel employees. I have to infer that, because it doesn’t actually ask me to do so, but there’s a form on the other side. Here it is:

Pineappleprogram

The first warning that this piece is in trouble is the headline: It’s not a headline at all. It’s a label. The writer had the mindset that the program was awesome, and all he had to do was tell us it exists. It’s a lot like the common error of “we exist” fundraising.

That’s not all…

It never actually asks the reader to do anything in particular. Here’s the closest it comes to a call to action: “Now any guest can nominate those special people for Pineapple Recognition Rewards.”

As with the headline, it assumes that describing the program is all it needs to do. Everyone who reads it will be so excited by the wonderfulness of the program, they’ll want to be involved, and they’ll figure out what to do.

Most of the rest of the piece is a laborious explanation of how the program works. Because the program is so dang awesome!

Here’s what this piece should have done — and how all fundraising should be:


  • Lead with what’s in it for the reader.
  • Don’t describe how awesome the program is, show the donor how awesome her involvement will be. Nobody cares about your program … but they can get passionate about the outcome of your program.
  • Clearly and directly tell the reader what you want her to do.
  • Give a reason to do it now.


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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.

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