We don’t see things the way our donors see things

A week ago today, my heart sank when I checked my email. A sick feeling rose to my throat.

It was Giving Tuesday, and my inbox was packed, overflowing, with emails from nonprofits, most of the subject lines including the word “#GivingTuesday.”

It was ridiculous. Overwhelming. Disturbing.

Virtually all of my clients had Giving Tuesday campaigns in the email. And I was thinking, There’s no way donors are going to be able to wade through all that. Our Giving Tuesday campaigns are doomed!

Fortunately, it was too late for me to do anything about it.

Because the things I might have done would have been huge mistakes.

My inbox-induced fears were groundless. All the Giving Tuesday campaigns I was involved in did fine. Or a lot more than fine. Final results ranged from modest improvements over last year to dramatic improvements over last year. Nobody failed. Nobody was disappointed.

That terrible feeling I got when I looked at my inbox on Giving Tuesday was meaningless information.

The way things looked to me had nothing to do with what donors were experiencing. (The most likely difference: I subscribe to a ridiculous number of nonprofit emails. You probably do also. Our donors are more selective. Their inboxes aren’t like ours.)

This isn’t just about Giving Tuesday. I see fundraisers make decisions like the one I wanted to make last week all the time:


  • I never respond to — or even read — direct mail. Direct mail won’t work!
  • I hate the messy, corny, old-fashioned approach of fundraising. It turns me off! We need to do it differently!
  • I’m sick of melodramatic, emotional fundraising. Let’s just show donors the facts!
  • I hate that garish shade of red. Remove it from our fundraising!

You’ve heard decisions like these too, right?

They’re based on the same fallacy that gripped me last week: That donors see things exactly the way we do, and that our reactions predict their reactions.

It isn’t that way. In fact, our reactions are much better at predicting theirs when we take them as counterfacts. If you think it won’t work, it probably will. And vice versa.

I have a feeling Giving Tuesday is a fad. That it’s eventually going to blow away like dust in the wind. I have no proof for that. It’s just a feeling. But if I’m right, and Giving Tuesday really is just a fad — it ain’t over yet! I’d have to be crazy to cancel or curtail Giving Tuesday campaigns based on how it seems to me. I’m going to recommend it to everyone next year.

No matter what my inbox looks like.


Comments

2 responses to “We don’t see things the way our donors see things”

  1. I’m not a fan of this campaign. Sure, I like the idea of promoting philanthropy instead of shopping. But, in my organization, mgmt was all over running a Giving Tuesday campaign. My reply was “Great, so why are we asking them to give?” The answer of “Because it’s Giving Tuesday” isn’t good enough.

  2. I’m not a fan of this campaign. Sure, I like the idea of promoting philanthropy instead of shopping. But, in my organization, mgmt was all over running a Giving Tuesday campaign. My reply was “Great, so why are we asking them to give?” The answer of “Because it’s Giving Tuesday” isn’t good enough.

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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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