Me-First Fundraising: Why it doesn’t work

Usually, you can count on Kiva to do solid, effective fundraising.

That’s why this example that recently landed in my in-box is disappointing:

Mefirstkiva

This email from Kiva is classic Me-First Fundraising. It’s a common form of fundraising that’s based on the premise that if you talk about your organization enough, donors will be impressed and give.

Since it’s a short message, let’s look at each sentence:


  • Your donation makes Lovince’s loan possible. This is fundraising — or it would be if some meat were on the bones of this thought. There isn’t, because the rest of the message is about Kiva, not about the donor.
  • We’re making great progress towards our goal of $100,000 in donations in 1 week! The donor has no reason to care about your progress toward your arbitrary goal. It has nothing to do with her. Campaigns and goals are great, but you have to bring them into the donor’s world. There has to be a reason for the goal that the donor can understand and care about.
  • Will you join us and help Kiva reach more borrowers around the globe? A simple edit would make this sentence donor-focused. Will you join other caring people and reach more borrowers like Lovince?
  • Kiva never takes a fee on loans, so we rely on donations to keep growing. Isn’t Kiva special? In fundraising, you don’t just brag about your good qualities — you show how those qualities matter to donors. And if they don’t matter to donors, you talk about something that does.
  • We’ve touched the lives of more than 1.6 million borrows in more than 85 countries so far, but we’re just getting started! This is just chest-pounding. It’s great that they’ve touched so many lives in so many countries. But the business at hand is helping the next one — the concrete step the donor can take now to make that happen.
  • Help us create more opportunity: How about just Create more opportunity?

This is Me-First Fundraising. Distressingly common, and painfully ineffective.

Remember: The thing that ultimately makes every donor donate is something within them — not a fact about how cool your organization is.

Don’t waste your time and money on Me-First Fundraising. Practice Donor-First Fundraising instead.


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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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