When fundraisers forget who they’re talking to

Seth Godin asks (as usual) a great question: Who is us? Here it is, almost in its entirety:

When you build a tribe or a movement, you’re asking people to … become “one of us.”

That means, though, you need to be really clear who “us” is. Not just who am I joining, but what does it mean to be one of you?

One of the most common and destructive fundraising beliefs is that you’re trying to reach the general public with your fundraising. That “everyone” could be your donor.

A huge percentage of the population will never give to your cause (or any other). They’re too young, too distracted, or too disengaged to participate in philanthropy. There’s no media channel and no brilliant argument that’s going to coax them to give.

Your real targets are in the other half of the population, those who regularly give to charity. But even then, you’re not talking to all of them. You’re talking to a subset, your “tribe.”

The most important thing you can know is who they are.

Talk to them — the people who are with you because they are connected with you in some specific way — anything from shared experience to shared background to living in the same community. Really use your existing connection points with your tribe.

Then forget everyone else.

A lot of fundraising dollars are wasted by fundraisers trying to persuade “everybody” to give. Almost as much is wasted when fundraisers fail to recognize what exact tribe they’re working within.


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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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